30 July 2003

Nigeria: IFJ Demands That 'Fatwa' On Publisher And Journalist Be Cancelled

press release

Toronto — IFJ Condemns Crackdown on Press Freedom of Journalists in Nigeria

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned a recent affirmation of a "fatwa" (death sentence) issued by a Committee of the Jama'atul Nasril Islam (JNI), against two Nigerian journalists in the northern State of Kaduna.

On July 21, the JNI Secretary-General, Justice Abdulkadir Orire, included the "fatwa" in the publication of its yearly report. The "fatwa" on Nduka Obiagbena, a publisher for ThisDay, and Isioma Daniel, a former reporter for ThisDay, stands as a continuation of an initial "fatwa" on Daniel subsequent to a controversial article she published on November 16, 2002.

Although the newspaper issued a comprehensive apology due to the article's allegedly blasphemous nature, the Kaduna office was burned down by a group of protesters and the newspaper was banned through a State Assembly decision in the neighboring Kano State. "This death sentence exacerbates an already intolerable climate of fear and oppression for the media in Nigeria," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

White reiterated the importance of a statement he made in a letter to the Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on November 27 last year: "Quality journalism will not emerge from terror and the reactions against the newspaper and its staff have now reached intolerable and hysterical proportions."

Following this letter, IFJ's partner in Nigeria, the International Press Centre (IPC), organized a one-day roundtable on Media and Religion in Lagos.

Among the resolutions resulting from this meeting were the following:

* The media has a crucial role to play in strengthening democracy by giving people the opportunity to exercise their right of freedom of expression and therefore should be treated with greater tolerance by the larger society, even when some believe it has erred on particular issues.

* The "fatwa" on Miss Isioma Daniel is uncalled for and should be lifted or cancelled promptly.

The IFJ demands that the "fatwa" on both journalists should be lifted or cancelled immediately. "Taking into account the apology by ThisDay, the Nigerian government must proactively push all parties concerned to enter into dialogue in an attempt to find a solution to this issue in order to prevent further catastrophes," said White.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists. in more than 100 countries

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