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CPJ: Nigerian journalist Agba Jalingo detained on cybercrime charges

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Abuja, March 27, 2023 – A federal court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Monday ordered the detention of CrossRiverWatch publisher Agba Jalingo for allegedly publishing false news that caused “annoyance, ill will and insult,” in violation of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act, according to a report by the outlet and CrossRiverWatch editor Jonathan Ugbal, who spoke to CPJ by phone. The charge relates to a June 2022 CrossRiverWatch article alleging that Elizabeth Alami Frank Ayade, sister-in-law to Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, paid someone to take a law school exam for her. 

“Authorities in Nigeria should swiftly ensure the release of CrossRiverWatch publisher Agba Jalingo, drop the charges against him, and allow him to work freely,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Frivolous detention and criminalization of journalism in Nigeria have become far too commonplace, and legislators must reform the country’s laws to prevent this.”

Jalingo’s next court date is scheduled for March 30, when his bail application will be heard.

In August 2022, authorities arrested Jalingo following a complaint from Elizabeth Ayade and charged him under the Cybercrimes Act in December 2022. In 2019 and 2020, Jalingo was arrested and detained for nearly six months over his reporting about Governor Ben Ayade.

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