The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, has condemned the incarceration of a Kaduna journalist, Luka Binniyat, who has been in Kaduna Prison for eight days.
A judge ordered the journalist to be detained on charges of “breach of public peace” and false reporting over an article he wrote for the daily, Vanguard. The charges are related to a January 24 article that Binniyat wrote for Vanguard in which he alleged that herdsmen killed five students from the College of Education, according to media reports. Kaduna authorities charged the journalist on March 20 under the state’s penal code, according to the court documents. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has long been accused of bias in favour of the herdsmen in their incessant clashes with farmers in the southern part of the state.
Vice President NUJ, South East, Christopher Isiguzo, condemned Binniyat’s detention an interview with newsmen after visiting him in prison on Thursday. “We are clearly condemning the incarceration of Luka Binniyat in particular and other journalists. This is quite unacceptable to NUJ. More so, when he is not being found wanting in the discharge of his duties as a journalist.
“We want to also express displeasure to conditions attached to his bail by a Kaduna High Court. We are talking about a journalist and not a criminal or hoodlum. He is not part of those asking people to vacate any part of the country, and you are attaching such stringent bail conditions to him.”
Those conditions mean that Binniyat is still being held at Kaduna Prison despite the bail granted by the judge yesterday. Isiguzo added: “We are, therefore, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague. The CJN [Chief Justice of Nigeria] and the NJC [National Judicial Council] should also intervene on the judges so that they don’t continue to drag the image of the judiciary in the mud.”
Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO, stated: “Charging a journalist with ‘breach of peace’ simply for informing the public is unacceptable, and arbitrarily throwing him in prison when he appears for a hearing is outrageous. Nigerian authorities should immediately release Luka Binniyat and drop all charges against him.”
Under the Kaduna State penal code, Binniyat faces up to three years in prison if convicted of breach of public peace and two years if convicted of false reporting, or “injurious falsehood.” Governor El-Rufai has spent more time arresting people under this code than on dealing with the perpetrators of violence.