CPJ demands release of editor abducted by Akwa Ibom govt

Akwa Ibom Governor, Godswill Akpabio

There has been widespread condemnations over the arrest and secret arraignment of Mr. Thomas.

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The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, said on Friday that it holds the Akwa Ibom State government responsible for the safety of the Editor of Global Concord, Thomas Thomas, who was arrested in Uyo since Tuesday.

Mr. Thomas, the editor of the thrice-weekly newspaper, was seized by three plain clothed men suspected to be government security operatives. He was taken away in handcuffs.

Though the security agencies in the state initially denied knowledge about the whereabouts of the editor, he was later arraigned secretly on Thursday before a Magistrate Court in Uyo on a three count charge.

The charge sheet signed by the State Director of Public Prosecution, Usen Usen, accused Mr. Thomas, of using his medium to commit acts purportedly contravening the Akwa Ibom State Internal Security and Enforcement Law 2009.

But, an Uyo-based lawyer, Ehpraim Eshiet, faulted the government for charging the Editor under the provision of Section 6(1)(e)(d) and (f) as well as Section 6(2) of the Akwa Ibom State Internal Security and Enforcement Law 2009, which was enacted specifically to help tackle the menace of kidnapping in the state.

“It is not clear where kidnapping was involved in the offence the Editor was accused of committing,” Mr. Eshiet said. “The least law the government should have thought about should have been the Law of Sedition. Even that has since been overtaken by the Freedom of Information, FOI, law.”

He said what the government was trying to do is harass Mr. Thomas, by keeping him in prison, with the expectation that he would be psychologically broken.

Having charged and arraigned him in court, he said the least the government should do, is either release him on bail or try him and set him free expeditiously.

CPJ condemned the treatment meted out to Mr. Thomas and asked the Nigerian authorities to guarantee his safety.

“CPJ is alarmed by the seizure of Thomas Thomas and calls on Nigerian authorities to do all they can to ensure his safety and well-being,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Sue Valentine from Cape Town, South Africa.


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