Court strikes out defamation suit against Nigerian journalist

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A Magistrate Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has struck out a ‘criminal defamation’ case filed by the Akwa Ibom State Government against a journalist, Kufre Carter.

Mr Carter, a sports reporter with a local radio station, XL 106.9 FM, was arrested on April 27 by Nigeria’s secret police, SSS, and charged with defamation for “castigating” the then Commissioner for Health in Akwa Ibom State, Dominic Ukpong, over his handling of the fight against COVID-19 pandemics in the state.

The journalist was detained for about a month in the SSS facility in the state.

The Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, prosecuted the case on behalf of the state government.

The journalist’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said in a Facebook post the case was struck out on Friday, November 20, by Winifred Umohandy , a chief magistrate, “for want of diligent prosecution.”

Mr Effiong said the Akwa Ibom State Government did not provide any witness against the journalist.

He also said Mr Ukpong, who claimed to have been defamed, did not show up in court for the journalist’s trial.

“Those who occupy political positions in Nigeria must realise that the era of using security agencies to hunt and persecute citizens unchallenged for expressing their views on issues of bad governance is over.

“We will never tolerate such reckless abuse of power and cowardly acts of intimidation by politicians. We will continue to challenge their impunity within the ambits of the law,” the lawyer said.

The journalist, Mr Carter, said he had been vindicated by the court decision to strike out the case.

“Their (government) seeming lack of interest was because there was absolutely no shred of evidence to prove that I was guilty of what they accused me of,” he told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday.