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13 IFEX members sign WAJA statement on developments in Nigeria

(WAJA/IFEX) -Thirteen IFEX members signed the following statement issued by
WAJA, calling for the release of other journalists in Nigeria. (Due to
technical difficulties in reaching Ghana, the final list of signatures was
not confirmed until now.)

"On 23 June 1998, which has been designated "Freedom Day" in Nigeria by
opposition groups, the West African Journalists Association (WAJA) is joined
by other organizations from around the world to call for the release of
political prisoners and freedom of expression in Nigeria. General Sani
Abacha's four years of rule over the country reversed the clock of press
freedom and traumatized the human rights situation in Nigeria, which had
adverse effects on the media landscape in West Africa.

"We have since then been following with keen interest pronouncements by the
new military leader General Abdusalam Abubakar and indeed welcome the
release of nine detainees including Chris Anyanwu, Editor-in-Chief of the
defunct "The Sunday Magazine" and General Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of
state of Nigeria.

"But we are of the opinion that the momentum for a positive change that will
bring lasting peace and democracy to Nigeria can only take an upswing if the
new military leader takes more practical steps and measures that can
convince Nigerians, WAJA and the international community that he really
wants to make a departure from the policies and programmes of General

"We therefore call on General Abubakar to immediately release all political
detainees still languishing in jail. We are pleased that Chris Anyanwu has
been released but her release is meaningless unless the other three
journalists - George Mbah of "Tell", Ben Charles Obi of "Weekend Classique"
and Kunle Ajibade of "TheNews" - who were arrested and sentenced with
Anyanwu in 1995 are released, along with other journalists in detention.

"General Abubakar should also show he is not just another General Abacha by
releasing Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 12 June 1993 elections
from continued detention and engage in genuine discussions with human rights
groups and political bodies that will facilitate the return of Nigeria to
constitutional rule as scheduled.

"We want to use this occasion to congratulate the journalists of Nigeria
whose resilience and courage have kept the flame of freedom burning in the
very difficult years under Abacha.

"We have no illusion in our minds that their struggle is over and will
continue to show solidarity as our colleagues and all freedom loving people
in Nigeria fight for final victory.

"Following are the names, news affiliations and dates of imprisonment of the
12 other imprisoned Nigerian journalists and media employees:

Jude Sinnee, newspaper vendor, 1 March 1996
Okina Deesor, Radio Rivers, 31 July 1996
Moshood Fayemiwo, "Razor", 1 February 1997
Adetokunbo Fakeye, "PM News", 4 November 1997
Babafemi Ojudu, TheNews/Tempo/PM News Group, 17 November 1997
Rafiu Salau, TheNews/Tempo/PM News Group, 18 November 1997
Ben Adaji, "TheNews", 4 December 1997
Niran Malaolu, "The Diet", 28 December 1997
Obi Chukwumba, "African Concord", 5 January 1998
Joshua Ogbonna, "Rising Sun", 9 March 1998
John Edward, "Prime Sunset", 22 March 1998
Ganiyu Adeoye, "Prime Sunset", 22 March 1998

"The undersigned international human rights groups, press freedom
organizations and journalists' associations support this statement:"

Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists, U.S.A.
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Human Rights Watch
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia
Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression
PEN American Center
West African Journalists' Association, Ghana
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, Canada
World Association of Newspapers, France
World Press Freedom Committee, U.S.A.

West African Journalists Association

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