Agba Jalingo’s trial listed among 10 “most urgent” threats to press freedom in the world

Mr Agba Jalingo inside the courtroom on Friday
Mr Agba Jalingo inside the courtroom on Friday

The ongoing trial of a Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, has been listed among 10 “most urgent” cases of threats to press freedom around the world.

The list was released on Friday by One Free Press Coalition, a coalition of about 34 media organisations “standing up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth” globally.

Members of the coalition include Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, The Financial Times, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, The Washington Post, and Voice of America.

“The Coalition conceived and shares a list each month, highlighting journalists who are incarcerated, under threat or facing injustice,” One Free Press Coalition said on its website.

“This list (ranked in order of urgency) strives to encompass half new names and half recurring names each month, which allows for new spotlights as well as sustained campaigns,” it added.

Mr Jalingo is ninth on the list.

Hounded, jailed, murdered

Mr Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, is standing trial for treason over a report alleging that the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the Cross River government.

Mr Jalingo was arrested on August 22. He is remanded at the Calabar prison, after a federal high court judge denied him bail.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident and a columnist for The Washington Post who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, October 2018, is number one on the list.

Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist in Tanzania who has been missing for two years now, is also on the list.

Mr Jalingo’s trial depicts the worsening record of press freedom in Nigeria.

The Amnesty International last month said at least 19 journalists and media practitioners have been attacked in Nigeria between January and September 2019, the highest since 2015.

Unbroken

Mr Jalingo recently released some prison notes, urging the people of Cross River to remain steadfast in the struggle against “dictatorship”.

He said in the notes that he is ready to go through his travails faithfully, with the belief that victory and glory await him in the end.

“One final assurance that I give to my people of Cross River, in particular, is that ‘we will overcome that dictator in Peregrino house,’” Mr Jalingo wrote.

“Dictatorship has never defeated goodwill and a determined people. Even if I end up not standing with you in the summit, remain strong and be rest assured that the arc of life is on our side and we will win.

“When this wind has finished blowing yonder, and it shall soon; we will look back and be glad we stuck our necks on the guillotine and history will only be fair to us, our people shall be free, the will of God would have been done and God’s name will be glorified.”

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