Magistrate Court Sentences Two Journalists Over Defamation

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On November 29, 2023, Magistrate Court 4 sitting in Asaba, Delta State sentenced two journalists: Mr. Joe Ogbodu, Managing Editor of Bigpen Nigeria, an online newspaper, and Prince Amour Udemude, to prison for the defamatory report they published over four years ago, on October 17, 2019.

The court sentenced Prince Amour to two years imprisonment or a fine of N100,000.00, and Joe Ogbodu to one year imprisonment, to pay the sum of N50,000.00 fine respectively to the Delta State Government and to write a retraction in BIG PEN and Sahara Reporters Online, coupled with a retraction in one Nigerian Newspaper.

The two journalists in their story about a bloody crisis in Uzere community accused Mr. Sam Ogrih of funding and sponsoring some armed Uzere community youths who styled themselves as “Freedom Fighters” and had unleashed mayhem on the community.

Joe and Prince Amour had pleaded not guilty to the charge of misdemeanour, to wit defamation, after listening to the five-count charge and their counsels applied for their bail.

When the court resumed sitting on the case, the presiding Magistrate, B.N Anumadu sentenced them and ordered them to tender an unreserved apology to Mr. Sam Ogrih for the report.

They wrote an apology wherein they stated that the story was not intentional and that they deeply regretted publishing it.

In their apology, the two journalists said they regretted the publication after re-examining the facts of the story and thereby apologised to Sam Ogrih for any inconveniences the story may have caused his reputation. They said: “The story was not intentional and it’s deeply regretted. The general public should take notice.”

On October 12, 2022 when they appeared before a Magistrate Court sitting in Asaba, Prince Amour alleged that he was coerced and threatened by a police prosecutor, Ms Theresa Okpor, to write a statement that she dictated.