Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Seditious journalists or anti-democratic president?

Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. But at least for the last few years, one could call Nigeria a democracy. And the country has always had one of the most vibrant press scenes in all of Africa, even during the dark days of despotic military rule. Yet all of these traits have come under attack recently, except for the corruption of course.

First, supporters of President Olesegun Obasanjo tried to manipulate the federal constitution to allow him to be president-for-life. Fortunately, the bid was rejected but a message was sent. And Obasanjo has declared corruption public enemy number one, his actions call this into question, while at the same time endangering press freedom.

Apparently, Pres. Obasanjo has a presidential jet. That is not surprising, considering how much time he spends dealing with issues outside Nigeria. Maybe if he spent more time working on the mess at home, the country would be better off.

Anyway, a reporter from The Daily Independent newspaper wrote an article questioning the age and cost of the presidential jet. The article also suggested that the plane may have experienced technical problems.

Another journalist discussed the article on a television show.

In any normal country, this would not be a big deal. But to Obasanjo, always hypersensitive to criticism, it was the end of the world. So for this ordinary article of competent investigative journalist, the reporters were charged with sedition.

SEDITION.

They were accused of seeking to "bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the president."

According to this twisted definition, any critic of the president could be charged with sedition.

Pres. Obasanjo is seen as one of the more enlightened heads of state on the continent. His jet-setting has given the impression of a true pan-African leader. Some have even tipped him to fill the soon to be vacant post of president of the African Union commission.

But this sort of garbage is what is we expect of Robert Mugabe, not of the man who would be Africa's face to the world.

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