New York, March 21, 2022 — In response to news reports that a federal court on Monday acquitted Nigerian journalist Agba Jalingo on all charges, including anti-state and defamation, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“Today’s acquittal of journalist Agba Jalingo on trumped-up charges is welcome, but he should never have been arrested, detained for nearly six months, and prosecuted for his work in the first place,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Nigerian authorities should compensate Jalingo for his mistreatment, in compliance with a 2021 regional court decision, and ensure that journalism is not criminalized and the media can report freely.”
Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019, and charged for his writing and social media posts about Cross River state Governor Benedict Ayade, according to CPJ documentation and media reports. “At every point in time, I knew I was innocent,” Jalingo, publisher of the privately owned news website CrossRiverWatch, told CPJ by phone. “I have always known this day will come.”
In July 2021, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, a West African regional court, ordered the Nigerian government to compensate Jalingo for his prolonged detention and mistreatment in custody, according to media reports and CPJ calls for compliance. As of Monday, Jalingo has not been paid, he told CPJ.