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Nigeria: Publisher Charged with Sedition

(Nov. 2, 2007) On October 10, 2007, in southern Nigeria, the publisher of a private newspaper was arrested by officers reported by some to be agents of the State Security Service, even though the local authorities denied they were involved. On October 16, Jerome Imeime, publisher of a newspaper in the State of Akwa Ibom, was charged by a magistrate's court with sedition, based on an article critical of Godwill Akpabio, the governor of that state. The newspaper had printed a front-page story speculating that state treasury funds could perhaps have been used by the governor to pay off his election campaign debts and alleging that the process of awarding contracts for road construction in the state was corrupt.

Imeime is the first journalist in the country to be charged with sedition for coverage of the leadership in more than a year. Nigeria had rescinded its sedition law in 1983, but journalists have still been charged with the offense since that date. Commenting on the arrest, Joel Simon, Executive Director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, stated: "[r]esurrecting sedition charges against Jerome Imeime for his work is outright censorship and is unacceptable in a country engaged in a historic democratic transition." The newspaper had been raided in June 2007, when 5,000 copies of an issue criticizing Governor Akpabio were seized; state authorities denied involvement in that action. Imeime's trial date was set for November 16, and the paper has remained closed. He was released on bail of N25,000 (about US$206). (Press Release, Committee to Protect Journalists, Publisher Arrested, Charged with Sedition over Story Critical of Governor (Oct. 18, 2007), available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200710191013.html; Nigeria: Court Grants Bail to Newspaper Publisher in A/Ibom [sic], DAILY TRUST (Abuja), Nov. 2, 2007, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200711020363.html.)