Excessively bail conditions used to keep Nigerian journalists in prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the use of excessively demanding bail conditions to keep Nigerian journalist Olamilekan Hammed Adewale Bashiru in prison although he was granted bail in theory on 21 June.

The editor of the EagleForeSight news website, Bashiru has been held since late April for reposting an article reporting that the current governor of the southwestern state of Ogun was jailed in the United States in 1986.

A court ruled on 21 June that he could finally be released, but only after depositing a very large bond of 4 million nairas (around 10,000 euros) and producing two sureties who must provide their phone number and full address, bank account details and a property certificate. Although still not officially charged, Bashiru is due to appear in court again on 19 July.

By setting an especially high bond, the federal high court is using a deliberate strategy to silence and censor journalists and keep them in prison,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “We condemn the justice system’s use of such arbitrary methods to keep journalists in detention without formally charging them. These repressive methods have no place in a society that respects fundamental rights. This journalist must be released unconditionally on 19 July.

Bashiru was summoned to the headquarters of the Department of State Security in Abeokuta, Ogun’s capital, on 29 April to explain his decision to repost an article originally published in the Peoples Gazette newspaper reporting that Ogun’s governor, Dapo Abiodu, has a US criminal record and was jailed for credit card fraud in 1986 in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

After a heavy-handed interrogation during which the police refused to notify his lawyers, Bashiru was forced to delete the article and issue a public apology describing it as “false information.” After his transfer to Abeokuta police headquarters, where he has been held ever since without formal charge, it was only on 16 May that he was allowed to see his lawyer, who was not told what he is accused of or the proposed date of his release.

The Nigerian justice system often uses exorbitant bonds as a deterrent for journalists and to force them to remain in detention until the end of their trials. RSF already denounced this method in the case of Luka Binniyat, a journalist with The Epoch Times newspaper, who ended up being detained without charge for 91 days after the imposition of a 1-million naira bond (and two other subsequent bonds for the same amount).

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Updated on 15.07.2022