Fulani vs Enugu villagers: NEWS EXPRESS Regional Editor, 3 other journalists face summary trial

Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 2 April 2016 | 3,742 times

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Four journalists who went to an Umuahia Magistrate Court Friday to cover the trial of the 76 Awgu villagers from Enugu State detained at Federal Prisons, Afara Umuahia, got more than they bargained as they were subjected to a summary trial.

Chief Magistrate Mary Emenike, presiding over Court 5 where a batch of the Awgu 76 were arraigned, drilled the journalists in about an hour-long trial for coming to her court without permission.

The journalists involved are the National Trustee of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in charge of Zone C and Regional Editor of News Express, Ezeogo Boniface Okoro, the Chairman of Correspondents Chapel and Abia State Correspondent of THISDAY newspapers, the State Financial Secretary of Abia State Council of NUJ and Correspondent of DAILY INDEPENDENT newspapers and the State Correspondent of The AUTHORITY newspapers.

Their ordeal started shortly after they had entered the courtroom when a policewoman approached them and demanded to know why they were recording court proceedings.

The journalists informed her of their identity and mission, she requested to see the The AUTHORITY Correspondent outside the courtroom. When they went out, the policewoman barred the reporter from re-entering the court and walked back to her seat.

Within same minute, she walked up to the remaining journalists and equally requested to see them outside. When they went out, she told them that they have been asked to leave the court, adding that she was acting on the orders of the magistrate.

While the journalists walked away dejectedly, the policewoman called out to them to come back. When they insisted that they were going away, the policewoman told them that the Magistrate had asked them to come back.

Thinking that the Magistrate had changed her mind, the journalists came back to the court, only to be asked, on entering the courtroom, to line up behind the dock close to the entrance.

“Who is your leader,” the Magistrate asked the journalists. When she was told that they were there in their individual capacities, she asked again: “Who invited you?” and proceeded to take their statements.

She asked them about their identities, their organisations and designations, where they reside and why they were in her court.

The journalists while giving their statements, told her that the arrest, detention and trial of the Awgu 76 had become a national issue and that they were in the court, as their profession demands, to obtain accurate information that would enable them to provide update on the matter to the public accurately

After taking the statements of the journalists, the Magistrate gave her ruling, ordering the journalists to go and get “the leave of the court” to cover proceedings in her court.

The journalists went to Magistrate Court 1 as directed where a court official simply asked them to “sit down.”

After waiting in vain for about 20 minutes without anyone attending to them, the journalists stormed out of the court while the court official just sat down, smiling.

A legal expert who volunteered comments on the development, described it as a “magisterial tactics of barring newsmen from covering the court proceedings.”

•Photo shows one of the affected journalists, Ezeogo Boniface Okoro.


Source: News Express

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