On March 1, 2019, policemen in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, arrested Mr. Obinna Don Norman, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the online news medium, The Realm News, while he was on air at local radio station, Flo FM, discussing politics. He wastaken to a Magistrate Court where he was charged with cyber stalking under the Cybercrime Act, 2015 and remanded at the Afara prison in Umuahia on the orders of the Magistrate.
On the second court appearance, he was charged under the Abia State Anti-Terrorism and Kidnapping law of 2009. Obinna is accused of defaming and harassing former Abia State Governor, Senator Theodore Orji of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), according to the journalist and two charge sheets.
The charge sheets allege that the Obinna committed the offenses on or before March 21, 2018, but they do not specify any articles or comments related to the charges. Norman and Realm News editor Rotimi Akinola believe the charges are reprisal for Obinna’s reporting and criticism of the Abia state government, and are an attempt to silence the press ahead of the gubernatorial election scheduled for March 9, in which Okezie Ikpeazu, a PDP member, is running for re-election.
Obinna’s March 1 charge sheet listed four offenses against the journalist from sections 24 and 27 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 including: cyber stalking, sending defamatory messages using a computer, using a computer to send messages “for the purpose of causing public hatred,” and using a computer to “bully, threaten and harass.”
The charge sheet for the March 7 arraignment alleged that Norman threatened Orji’s life with “messages through [the] internet and phone calls,” which is punishable under Abia state’s 2009 anti-terrorism and kidnapping law.
The Case was adjourned to April 2, 2019.