Magistrate Court Sentences Journalists to 5 Months Imprisonment for Criminal Defamation

Gidado Shuiab and Alfred Oluyemi

A Magistrate Court sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on February 7, 2023, sentenced two journalists: Mr. Gidado Shuiab and Mr. Alfred Oluyemi, to five months imprisonment or a fine of N100,000 each on a two-count charge of conspiracy and criminal defamation.

The two journalists, who are Editor and Correspondent of News Digest, an online news medium, were charged based on a petition filed by Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries Limited, Amberi village in Kwara State.

Ruling on the case with file number MCIA/674C/2019, Senior Magistrate A.S Muhammed stated that his judgment was based on his reflection on the provisions of Criminal Justice Law (2018) as well as section 417(2)d of the Kwara State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2018.

Hillcrest Allied-Agro Industries Limited had written a petition to the Kwara State Commissioner of Police over an alleged libelous publication titled “Kwara Factory where Indian hemp smoking is legalized”. The publication which claims that the company allowed its staff members to smoke Indian hemp freely, was published on March 26, 2018, by the journalists on News digest website.

The magistrate said that the elements of defamation had been established by the prosecution, adding that the journalists “had common intention in publishing” the damaging article “and must have intended the natural consequences.”

He sentenced them to two months imprisonment with an option of N40,000 fine each on the offence of conspiracy. He also sentenced each of them to a fine of N60,000 on the count of defamation or three months imprisonment in default of payment.

The magistrate clarified that “each of the convicts is to pay a fine of N100,000 only for the offences of conspiracy and defamation respectively, having been convicted.”

Gidado and Alfred have vowed to challenge the judgment and have it overturned by a higher court.