The Human Rights Defenders (HURIDE), Ebonyi State office, has expressed deep concern over the recent arrest, detention, possible torture and consequent hospitalization of a journalist, Mr Godfrey Chikwere; resulting from a harmless facebook post.
According to a statement made available to Blueprint on Tuesday, which was signed by Chairman of HURIDE in Ebonyi State, Sampson Oko Nweke, and Publicity Secretary, Chinasa Awo Okereke, the group said that the state government should ensure nothing untoward happens to the journalist as the government has the unsavoury record of intimidating residents, especially journalists practising in the state.
The statement reads in part: “We have seen the petition emanating from the state commissioner for information leading to the arrest of the journalist; we have carefully studied the content of the petition but we are yet to find any reasonable grounds capable enough to warrant the ill-advised arrest and possible torture of Mr Chikwere.
“However, we watched in utter bewilderment the said Commissioner in a video wherein he was interviewed by a cross-section of Journalists battling to convince the public that the victim was being tried on a Cybercrime law No 012 passed by the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and assented to by the Governor last month. HURIDE, like many Ebonyians are deeply concerned this said law was never a public debate before being passed and to hide under same to prosecute the victim is totally unfair.
“Watching the Commissioner in the said video struggle in vain to indict the victim, we couldn’t find any said breach of law by the victim through his rather generalised and harmless Facebook posts.
“HURIDE learnt Chikwere was arrested and detained on Sunday 10th October 2021 by the police and got hospitalized the next morning following spontaneous health complications. We hereby warn that nothing untoward should happen to Godfrey Chikwere and the state government should take note of this.
“HURIDE is fully interested in this matter, and in coalescence with other sister rights groups and civil society organizations in the state, must continue to monitor the developments very closely. HURIDE has vowed to ensure Chikwere’s rights are duly enforced and justice adequately dispensed.
“Mr Chikwere’s predicament is not an isolated case as it is not the first time officials of the Ebonyi State Government will be openly leading assault on journalists practising in the state, perhaps in a futile attempt to gag the press.
“HURIDE is in possession of records of intimidation, attacks and assault on residents, especially journalists performing their duties as enshrined in Chapter 22 of the 1999 constitution, which upholds the freedom of the press. HURIDE must continue to advance peace in the world.”