Journalists freed on bail after more than two months in jail

New York, August 25, 2006—Two journalists imprisoned in Nigeria’s southeastern Ebonyi state since June 14 for an article criticizing the state governor were released on bail today. Imo Eze and Oluwole Elenyinmi, respectively director and editor of the local bimonthly Ebonyi Voice, were freed following local and international pressure on the governor, Eze told CPJ by telephone. The two are due to appear in court on sedition charges September 5.

The charges are linked to an April 16 article accusing Gov. Sam Ominyi Egwu of corruption and mismanagement, according to several local sources.

“We welcome the release of Imo Eze and Oluwole Elenyinmi, but they should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We urge Nigerian authorities to drop all criminal charges against them.”

The two journalists were freed after Gov. Egwu agreed that a civil servant with the rank of permanent secretary could guarantee that the defendants would appear in court, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) National Secretary, Usman Leman, told CPJ. This was one of the bail conditions, and had previously been impossible to fulfill, according to local journalists.

NUJ President Ndagene Akwu had visited Ebonyi State to press for the journalists’ release, including meeting with the governor, the NUJ said. Leman told CPJ that the union hopes the case can be settled out of court.

For more information about this case, see CPJ’s August 14 news alert.