Ailing reporter held without trial for nearly three months in central Nigeria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the persecution of Luka Binniyat, a journalist who has been detained in central Nigeria’s Kaduna state for more than 80 days pending a trial that keeps on being postponed although his health is worsening by the day.
A reporter for Epoch Times, a conservative international daily based in the United States, Binniyat has been held on a cyber-crime charge ever since his arrest on 4 November in connection with an article criticising the laxness of the Kaduna authorities with regard to the massacres of Christians in the south of the state. The trial keeps on being postponed either because the judge fails to turn up or because the prosecution “is not ready.” Three hearings have been postponed in this fashion since 6 December. The next is due to be held tomorrow.
“As well as being completely arbitrary, this journalist’s detention has become dangerous for his health”, said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Luka Binniyat has no place being in prison. If the charges brought against him were serious, he would have been tried long ago. He must be released.”
The case is the result of a complaint brought by the Kaduna state Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs because Binniyat’s article quoted a local senator who accused the commissioner of being implicated in the massacres of Christians. According to Binniyat’s son, the commissioner confronted Binniyat two days before his arrest and they almost came to blows when he threatened to humiliate Binniyat and have him jailed. At the same time, Kaduna’s authorities have not appreciated Binniyat’s coverage of human rights violations and abuses in the state in recent years.
RSF has learned from his family that they are become increasingly concerned about his health. He suffers from an ailment affecting his joints and a knee that has worsened since his arrest and he now needs crutches to walk.
Journalists are often subjected to threats and intimidation in Nigeria, which is West Africa’s most dangerous country for the media. This is particularly so for reporters covering massacres targeting Kaduna’s various religious communities, which are being covered by fewer and fewer journalists. According to the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), at least 120 journalists were detained in Nigeria in 2021 and some fled abroad to escape the harassment and violence, as RSF has reported in the past.
Nigeria is ranked 120th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.