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Nigerian journalists detained, charged for criticising polio campaign

UPDATE: Court grants bail to two journalists remanded in police custody (MRA, 14 February 2013)

(MRA/IFEX) - On 12 February 2013, Chief Magistrate Ibrahim Bello, of Magistrate Court 17 Gyadi-Gadi in Kano State, northwestern Nigeria, ordered the continued detention of Yakubu Musa Fagge and Mubarak Muhammad Sani of Wazobia FM as well as another person, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim.

The journalists were arrested for allegedly inciting violence, by saying on a radio show that polio immunisations were an anti-Islam Western conspiracy to cause infertility in women.

The two journalists were remanded in police custody over a seven-count charge, including criminal conspiracy, abetment, inciting disturbance, intentional insult, defamation of character, obstruction of a public servant in discharge of his duties, among others.

Last week, the accused persons aired a programme called 'Sandar Girma' on Wazobia FM, in Kano. During the program, the producer — Yakubu Musa Fagge — gave an account of how their reporter was manhandled by aides to a traditional title holder, who rejected polio vaccinators from vaccinating his children.

Coincidentally, two days after the programme aired, nine female polio vaccinators were killed by unknown gunmen.

This led to the arrest of the journalists, along with the Head of Programmes at Wazobia FM, Malam Muhammad Sulaiman Gama. Gama was released soon after.

The accused pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The journalists' defence lawyer, Musa Adamu Aliyu, applied for bail for their bail, citing relevant sections of the Nigerian Constitution and previous court decisions on the issue of bail.

But the police prosecutor, Sergeant Sadiq Na-Abba, urged the court not to grant them bail, as the police were still investigating the

Chief Magistrate Bello ordered for the accused persons to be remanded in police detention for the next two days, pending his ruling on the application of bail. He added that they should be given unconditional access to their families, their lawyers and all other constitutional guarantees.

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