The police in Akwa Ibom, Friday, arraigned a journalist in the state, Nsibiet John, for criminal defamation and sedition.
Mr. John was brought before a senior magistrate in Uyo, Emmanuel Archibong, on the charge that he published a story in a local newspaper, The Ink, alleging that the Akwa Ibom deputy governor, Moses Ekpo, “pockets” N250 million monthly as security votes from the state government.
The police said that the offense was punishable under Section 58 (1) (C) of the criminal codes of Akwa Ibom State.
Mr. John pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was granted bail to the sum of N250, 000.
The case was adjourned to February 13.
Mr. John, who doubles as the publisher and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, was arrested on Thursday by police detectives from the Police headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia.
He had spent a night in the police cell, despite the reported assurance from the Commissioner of Police in the state, Murtala Mani, that he was going to be released that day.
Another editor of the paper who had gone to the police headquarters to see the detained journalist was reportedly arrested too and later released that same evening.
Mr. John was represented in the case by Ewa Okpo, the lead counsel, and two other lawyers – David Augustine and Inibehe Effiong.
“No government has ever defeated the press,” Mr. Effiong told journalists outside the courtroom.
“We commend the courage of His Lordship for releasing the journalist on bail. We want to assure the press that the human rights community will never abandon them in this struggle,” Mr. Effiong said.
“Akwa Ibom shall be free,” he added.
The state deputy governor, Mr. Ekpo, who is a veteran journalist himself, had come under intense criticisms especially on the social media, for the arrest of the journalist.
“It’s unacceptable for the government of Akwa Ibom State to harass and intimidate the media, leaving journalists to live in fear,” a Non Governmental Organization, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, said in a statement.
“Media freedom shouldn’t be fair game for the government of Akwa Ibom State or other states of the federation for that matter.
“SERAP believes that no one should be arrested simply for criticising public institution or public figures,” the group said.