The United States on Monday welcomed death sentences issued by Saudi Arabia against five people over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Today’s verdicts were an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable,” a State Department official told reporters after the ruling, which was lambasted as a travesty by Turkey, rights groups, and The Washington Post, to which Khashoggi contributed.
The court, however, exonerated two top aides to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the United States Senate considers responsible for Khashoggi’s murder in October last year at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.
The United States “encouraged Saudi Arabia to undertake a fair and transparent judicial process,” the official added.
“We’re pressing them for more transparency and for holding everybody accountable.”
Riyadh has described the murder as a “rogue” operation, but both the CIA and a United Nations special envoy have directly linked Prince Mohammed to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
The government of US President Donald Trump has been careful to not attribute such blame to the prince, giving priority to maintaining good relations with the kingdom which is a major arms buyer and ally against Iran.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has decried what he described as an attack on the judiciary and absence of press freedom in the country.
In a statement on Monday, he said Nigeria’s founding fathers could never have fathomed that the nation would face such situation 59 years after gaining independence.
Atiku believes there must be press freedom and the judiciary must be independent while youths and activists who should ordinarily be the future of Nigeria should not be intimidated when they speak out about the state of the nation.
“All is not well when judges are persecuted for enforcing the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens,” he said in his Independence Day message.
He added, “All is not well when Nigeria is now officially the world headquarters for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow, while the needs of the governed are not being met.
“And certainly, all is not well when the media cannot freely express itself without the fear that those who wield the big stick would use it on them for saying things as they are.”
Time To Take Concrete Steps
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) explained that he could go with the flow and say all was well with the country or called for prayers like other leaders.
He stated that he could also call on Nigerians to show more understanding, but was mindful of the fact that “the time for rhetoric has long since passed.”
Atiku said, “Now is the time for all lovers of Nigeria to take concrete steps to aid Nigeria’s progress by not just praying and showing understanding, but also to take democratic action to ensure that the ideals of our founding fathers – Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress – are not set aside on the altar of tyranny.”
Rather than just call for prayers, he asked Nigerians to believe in and work for the nation’s betterment.
He also urged them to always insist that no one in the country, no matter how highly placed must be bigger than the laws of the land.
The former vice president, however, noted that there was much hope after listening to a recent remark by the Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II.
According to him, the traditional ruler spoke about why more attention must be paid to the issue of girl-child education.
“It is an age-long truism that women are the teachers of a nation. I make bold to say that the greatness of our country, Nigeria has much to do with how well we educate how children, especially the girl-child,” said the PDP presidential candidate.
He commended Zamfara State Governor, Mr Bello Matawalle, for leading the way by massively investing in public education.
Atiku also commended the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, and the airline for their role in the repatriation of hundreds of Nigerians who were victims of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He, therefore, stressed the need to put Nigeria first, saying it would help to revive the nation’s dream, as well as the ideals that its founding fathers had in mind when they came together for the country’s independence from the British colony.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have a role to play in making our nation great. Nigeria should be the beacon of hope, democracy, and freedom, to not only the African continent but to the black diaspora the world over.
“And to ensure that this becomes the case, we all have a duty to support and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the former vice president said.
“We do appreciate that we cannot deliver good governance without a free press, and we are always available to work in tandem with the media to ensure a democratic society that serves us all,” he said.
The Senate President added, “Let me, therefore, assure you that the 8th Senate values the media as crucial partners in the quest to build a stronger and more vibrant democracy.”
He noted that the legislature has gone a long way towards opening up the National Assembly as an institution that belongs to the people.
The lawmaker listed some of the steps they have taken to include the use of social media to give live updates on plenary and committee meetings, as well as live-streams of proceedings in the Senate.
He stressed that the pen has proven to be as effective, if not mightier than the sword, attributing it to the power of words to plant, grow, shape and motivate ideas into action.
The Senate President believes in a country with a chequered post-independent democratic experience such as Nigeria, the notion of ‘press freedom’ must drastically evolve from something its people pay lip service to into what must be practised, championed and protected at all costs.
According to him, the urgency of this is reflected in the nation’s ranking on the Global Press Freedom Index of 2019, where it is ranked 120 out of 180 countries.
Saraki said, “Clearly if we truly wish to grow and preserve our democracy, we must understand that a free and pluralistic media environment that guarantees access to information, is non-negotiable.
“When citizens have information, they are able to make informed choices due to the diversity of their viewpoints.”
“When we have such a society when citizens are not only well-informed but are free to express their valid opinions — without fear or prejudice — it is only then that we can truly say are practising true democracy,” he added.
Democracy, according to the Senate President, has its foundation in the freedom of the press, which in turn promotes good governance, accountability and respect for human rights.
He, however, said while the objectives may not be easy to achieve, the nation can agree that it can be done if it was determined to see it through.
With one Liberian newspaper facing a $1.8 million defamation case and a BBC journalist fleeing the country, there has been no honeymoon period for the press under the new government of President George Weah.
Accused of wanting to muzzle the media, the former footballer-turned-politician has attempted to reassure journalists saying they would have a “200 percent freedom of expression and press freedom under my government”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), however, has expressed concern over the $1.8 million in defamation suits against Front Page Africa, a Liberian newspaper that has carried critical coverage of successive governments.
“Liberia has a troubling history of libel lawsuits where applicants ask for exorbitant damages simply to harass and intimidate journalists, resulting in their imprisonment or the closure of news outlets,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa programme coordinator.
“The government should move swiftly to reform Liberia’s libel laws to guard against their abuse in this way,” Quintal added.
During a visit to Monrovia in March, the UN’s rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye expressed concern over the consequences of large financial penalties in civil libel suits against Liberian journalists and newspapers.
The Ministry of Information has denied any government involvement in the law suits against Front Page Africa which relate to a private dispute following the publication of an advertisement.
But the newspaper’s management and the CPJ blame the situation on its criticism of those in power, highlighting the presence among the complainants of a former member of Weah’s party and the absence of legal action against other media outlets.
Fear of reprisals
In another media drama, the BBC’s correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh left the country saying he feared reprisals by supporters of the president after Weah accused him of being against him.
“My fears go beyond the possibility of the president ordering my arrest some day and formally unsealing the indictment that he has already hinted (at) by his verbal attack,” Paye-Layleh said in a message to colleagues.
“I fear more that some of the tens of thousands of Mr President’s supporters… could understand his allegations against me to mean that I am his enemy. And you can imagine what could happen to me in some corners without it necessarily being by his directive,” he added.
Weah’s accusation against the journalist in March followed a visit by UN deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and a question from the journalist on the sensitive subject of the setting up a court for the perpetrators of crimes committed during the 1989-2003 civil war.
A large number of figures directly implicated in the civil war still occupy important positions in the political and economic spheres in the country.
A few days later, Weah said he did not harbour any animosity towards the correspondent and protested his commitment to press freedom.
But at a meeting last week, press bosses said they were “alarmed” by the recent escalation of threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists, according to The Press Union of Liberia (PUL).
“With the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Government is the biggest player in the media economy,” the PUL noted, highlighting the difficulties faced by the sector due to a slow economy and the desire of some officials to “strangulate” the media by limiting advertising.
Weah tried again to allay the sector’s fears last week when he met the heads of all the country’s media.
“I want to promise you… 200 percent freedom of expression and press freedom under my government. How can a man like me with soft heart, humble background as well as scores of friends in the country clamp down on free speech. There is no way I can use my position to hunt people for expressing their views to criticise me,” he said.
“While it is true the media and journalists are at liberty to write and criticise in whatever way they see, it is also incumbent of the media to mention the achievements of the government,” he added.
One of Nigeria’s defenders at the just concluded Afcon 2013 tournament where Nigeria’s Super Eagles were crowned champions of Africa is been the talk of the press in Scotland.
The Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose who plays for Celtics we hear is being wanted by Liverpool to add to its defence line.
According to Metro, the 24 year old Nigerian who is rated to be worth £6 million prompted Liverpool to up their game in their interest for the player after the player impressed scouts with his performances at the African Cup of Nations.
Scouts brought the name of the Nigerian international back to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after the tournament.
Liverpool representatives have been dispatched to watch the £6million-rated 24-year-old during the Hoops’ title procession in Scotland, as they ‘step up’ their interest in the player.
Manager Neil Lennon is well aware of the interest in his player, but revealed that there is yet to be a concrete offer for the player, who is contracted at Parkhead until 2015.
“I know a few Ambrose fans. There is nothing concrete, but I am aware of the interest,” he is quoted as saying by the paper.
Liverpool aren’t full of options in defence, with veteran centre Jamie Carragher announcing earlier in the month that he’s to retire at the end of the season.
That leaves Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates as the manager’s options at Anfield in the summer, and Rodgers already appears to be looking at his options on Merseyside.
Lille and Belgian winger; Eden Hazard has lashed out at the press for interpreting his recent remarks concerning pre-match training as the 21-year old tagged ‘lazy’.
After he announced on his twitter account to his followers and fan alike that he would be signing with the recent Champion League winners; Chelsea it went viral as he will be joining Chelsea this summer because it was unexpected of Hazard to pick Chelsea from the pack which included the new English Premiership winners; Manchester City and the Red Devils’ Manchester United.
Hazard was touted by pundits to definitely sign either of the two Manchester clubs but following the player’s decision, there has been some negative press coming from critics, who have slammed his somewhat questionable approach to training.
He responded to the press saying his passion for the game of football exceeds his enjoyment for training even though the latter contributed so much to his present status as world class player.
He said that people interpreted as him not wanting to work hard but he only meant that he does both training ad playing but enjoys the playing as he trains seriously to achieve his present status in the world of football.
“I don’t go out on the pitch thinking I’m going to do it because it comes instinctively. My left foot’s not quite as strong as my right,” Hazard began arguing his case.
Hazard claimed that it is his constant training that has helped him in the field of play to be explosive and not being able to shove off the ball when in contention and he owes to weight training.
Hazard will however need to be stronger as he will be launched into the English Premier League as a top flight player playing for a top flight club where pace and strength is necessary to cap overall skill.