A Nigerian court acquitted Agba Jalingo of cybercrime charges on July 8, 2024. (Photo: Courtesy of CrossRiverWatch)

Nigerian court acquits publisher Agba Jalingo of cybercrime charges

Abuja, July 9, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Monday’s court decision in Nigeria acquitting Agba Jalingo, publisher of the privately owned CrossRiverWatch, of cybercrime charges.

“While we welcome the acquittal of publisher Agba Jalingo of cybercrime charges, Nigerian authorities urgently need to stop the criminalization of journalists for their work,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program, from New York. “Authorities must focus on passing legislation that protects journalists and guards against efforts to prosecute the press for reporting on matters of public interest.”

In August 2022, authorities arrested Jalingo and in December 2022 charged him under the Cybercrimes Act over a June 2022 CrossRiverWatch article alleging that Elizabeth Alami Frank Ayade, sister-in-law to Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, paid someone to take a law school exam for her. If convicted, he could have been imprisoned for three years. In March 2023, he was jailed for a week over the case.

On July 8, the court acquitted Jalingo on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, the journalist’s lawyer First Baba Isa and CrossRiverWatch acting managing editor Ugbal Jonathan told CPJ.

Jalingo’s previous arrest in August 2019  and detention for nearly six months over his reporting on corruption allegations involving Ayade became a high-profile case. In 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. Ugbal told CPJ that Jalingo had yet to receive that compensation. In 2022, a Nigerian federal court acquitted Jalingo on all charges related to the 2019 case.