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Governor Orders The Arrest Of Nigerian Journalist Over Health Report


Report says, the Sun Newspaper correspondent, Chijioke Agwu, has been arrested for writing a story on Lassa fever which the Ebonyi state governor claims violates the state’s coronavirus law.

The reporter, according to the newspaper, attended a press conference by the governor and was whisked away by the Chief Security Officer to the governor, and later handed over to the state’s Commissioner of Police, Awosola Awotinde.

It was gathered that reporter is still being held by the police, and will be charged to court as at the time of filing this report.

It was said that the reporter lied in a recent report he wrote on Lassa fever outbreak in the state.

The Governor, during the briefing, said the reporter’s actions contravened the recently passed Ebonyi State Coronavirus and other Dangerous Infectious Diseases And Related Matters Law 005 of 2020.

While signing the law, the governor warned against spread of false information, quoting a part of the law.

He declared,

“The transmission, or dissemination through a computer system or network or otherwise, of false information regarding COVID-19 within the State and other Dangerous Infectious Diseases and or any circumstances related to or bordering on the outbreak or possible outbreak of COVID-19 within the State is hereby prohibited."

He said any person who provides false or misleading information intentionally or recklessly with a view to causing panic or disaffection amongst members of the public shall be liable under the Ebonyi State Coronavirus and other Dangerous Infectious Diseases Law, 2020, Quarantine Act, Cap Q2 LF.N, 2004, Public Health Law, Cap 126 Laws of Ebonyi State of Nigeria 2009 and any other existing law, to a fine or imprisonment or both.

However, the Sun Newspaper, in a statement on its website, condemned the arrest, describing it as unfortunate.

The paper stated that the head of The Sun South East Bureau, Magnus Eze, had informed the management of the arrest in a text message.

Mr Eze wrote,

“I have just been informed that Ebonyi Gov, David Umahi has ordered the arrest and prosecution of The Sun newspapers state correspondent, Chijioke Agwu, while he attended a press invitation at the Govt House. I was told that their grouse was a feature story on Lassa fever endemic in Ebonyi which centred mainly on NCDC statistics published in Daily Sun of Friday, April 17, 2020."

The management wrote,

“It is wrong to arrest a reporter for doing his job. Our correspondent was arrested as if he was a common criminal while doing his legitimate duty. It is unfortunate a governor can make such an order and a Commissioner of Police acted on it.”

Also further investigation claimed that Mr Umahi has a penchant for harassing journalists.

The Sun stated,

“Sources say any time report on an issue in the state is published, the governor sometimes personally harasses and threatens reporters."

“the governor does not want any report on the failure of his government reported by the media. When there is a communal clash, robbery, killings in the state, and they are reported, he gets offended. These things are replete in the state and it is the duty of the media to report them.”

The Commissioner of Police, Awotinde Awosola, confirmed the arrest of the reporter.

He, however, denied that the police have barred access to the reporter.

“He is having a parley with my officers. We are investigating the matter,” he said

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