PEN Appeal: Jonathan Elendu
October 30, 2008
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan
Office of the Vice President
Fax: +234 9 234 1773 / +234 9 314 8793
On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern over the detention of U.S.-based blogger Jonathan Elendu.
According to our information, on October 17, 2008, Jonathan Elendu, a news blogger for Elendureports.com, was arrested by the State Security Service on his arrival in Abuja for a family visit. Reportedly, no charges against him have yet been brought, in contravention with Nigerian law, which stipulates that anyone arrested must be charged in court within 48 hours. Initially investigated for “money laundering,” he was then apparently accused of unspecified “acts of sedition.” He has now reportedly been transferred to the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which may suggest that he still faces charges of money laundering or corruption. On October 28, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria stated that Elendu had been “tortured to disclose the sources of several embarrassing news reports on prominent political leaders in Nigeria,” and had gone on hunger strike. Elendu has been denied both legal and medical assistance, and there are serious concerns for his health.
Elendureports.com, set up by Jonathan Elendu in 2005 in the state of Michigan, USA, is a diaspora-run web site that frequently publishes controversial stories, often based on anonymous sources, about corruption, the situation in the conflict area of the Niger Delta, and other sensitive subjects in Nigeria. Elendu is also accused of writing for another news web site, Saharareporters.com, which the Nigerian authorities have reportedly described as “guerrilla journalism.” Saharareporters.com has reportedly denied that Elendu works for them.
PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Jonathan Elendu is being held for his critical reporting on Nigeria in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call on authorities either to charge Elendu with a recognizable criminal offense and release him on bail pending trial, or release him immediately and unconditionally.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
Cc: His Excellency Brig. Gen. Oluwole Rotimi
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 362-6552
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