The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the reported harassment of the Publisher of Cross River Watch by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.
Agba Jalingo was arrested on August 26 in Lagos State before he was moved to Cross River. He has since been charged with criminal offences.
Mr Jalingo was arraigned last Friday at the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division, on four counts bordering on criminal acts.
These include, "acts of treason, treasonable felony, and threatening through various publications on crossriverwatch.com and social media, using malicious publications, instigating the people of Nigeria to stage protest for the removal of the Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria from office without due process of law and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Section 59 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention Amendment) Act, 2013 and Section 1(2) (a) (b) of the Terrorism (Prevention Amendment) Act, 2013."
The coalition has released a statement condemning his 'harassment' by the state. It said Nigerian journalists "should not be charged with any trumped-up criminal offences for holding the government accountable".
"This is a constitutionally conferred responsibility. Such actions are absolute ridicule on the law and the freedom of expression, and the charges make absolute ridicule of the Nigerian legal system," it said. "The increasing attacks on journalists encroaches on the freedom of the press and it behoves the government and other stakeholders to conscientiously work towards laws and provisions that will guarantee the safety and security of journalists in the line of duty and in holding the government accountable."
The group called on all relevant authorities to ensure justice is served in Mr Jalingo's case and anyone or group of persons found complicit be tried to the full extent of the law and brought to book.
"The press attack tracker has recorded several cases of unlawful arrest and harassment of journalists from Cross River State and four of these reports have been directly linked to Governor Ben Ayade. This reflects poorly on the state and its government.
"CWPPF calls on the Commissioner of Police to intervene and see that this constant harassment in Cross River state is curbed. Holding the government accountable cannot and should not be considered an act of treason."
The coalition includes Premium Times, Sahara Reporters, OrderPaper, The Cable, Daily Trust Newspaper, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Others are the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Civic Media Lab, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and others.