CPJ Welcomes Release of Christine Anyanwu
Calls for Freeing of All Imprisoned Nigerian Journalists

| News Alert Index | CPJ Home |


New York, N.Y., June 15, 1998
--The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomed the release today of Christine Anyanwu, the award-winning Nigerian journalist imprisoned since May 1995, and renewed calls for the release of the 16 other journalists still being held in Nigerian jails by the military regime in Abuja.

"We are relieved that Christine Anyanwu will finally receive the medical attention she so urgently needs, but we are equally concerned

about the health of the three other journalists who were imprisoned at the same time on the same charges, Kunle Ajibade, Ben Charles Obi, and George Mbah," said CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr.

Anyanwu, who received CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 1997 and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1998, was among nine prisoners ordered released today by Nigeria's new military leader, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. She was freed unconditionally, on health grounds.

Anyanwu, the subject with her colleagues of an intense campaign by CPJ to gain her freedom, is one of Nigeria's most respected journalists and the founder and editor of The Sunday Magazine. She and her colleagues were arrested for publishing articles debunking accusations of a plot to overthrow Nigeria's military regime, then headed by Gen. Sani Abacha. They reported that no evidence existed to support the allegations, which were a ruse to round up Abacha's political opponents. Ajibade was editor in chief of TheNews, Obi was editor of Weekend Classique; and Mbah was editor of Tell.

"Gen. Abubakar should understand that the release of one Nigerian journalist is not enough when Nigeria continues to hold more journalists in prison than any other African country," said Kakuna Kerina, CPJ's Africa Program Coordinator.

"For any transition to democracy to be considered credible, all of Nigeria's imprisoned journalists must be freed immediately and unconditionally."

Nigeria's once-vibrant independent press had been brutally suppressed during five years of military dictatorship under Gen. Sani Abacha, who died June 8 of an apparent heart attack. A relentless government crackdown on the media forces journalists to operate in increasingly clandestine conditions, and harsh new press laws have severely restricted their ability to practice their profession.