Nigerian police have freed four journalists arrested this week for a report in which they accused Goodluck Jonathan of launching a dirty tricks campaign against the opposition, their newspaper said.
The four reporters for local daily Leadership were detained on Monday after reporting that Jonathan had issued orders to frustrate a newly potent opposition by any means, including surveillance, ahead of 2015 presidential elections. The story did not say to whom the directive was addressed.
“They have all been released. Two of them were released conditionally, but they have to report to the police at 10 a.m. every day,” the paper’s Managing Director Azubuike Isiekwene told Reuters, adding that they were freed late on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
He had filed a complaint with the court over their treatment, he said.
Africa’s most populous nation has a vocal and relatively free press by the standards of the region and even vitriolic criticism of the president is usually tolerated. But the newspaper story, complete with a document alleged to be a directive from the president, seems to have tested the limits.
“The circulation of a fictitious ‘presidential directive’ that seeks in the main to cause civil strife, engender a breakdown of law and order, and negate the values of our democracy is a very grievous act indeed that should not be ignored,” presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said in a statement.