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Soyinka, others decry repression of human rights, Khashoggi killing

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Prof. Wole Soyinka consulting with Mr. Jahman Anikulapo with other guests at the Worldwide Reading


Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has expressed worry over increasing danger that journalists and writers face from heads of states and political leaders intolerant of criticism across the world. Soyinka made the statement while leading scores of journalists, publishers and writers at the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, organised by Wole Soyinka Foundation, and held in honour of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist and writer, who was allegedly killed by his country’s authorities on October 2, 2018, while visiting Saudi Consulate in Turkey. The event was held in conjunction with Freedom Park, Lagos.

With ‘Worldwide Reading for Freedom of the Press in Memory of Jamal Khashoggi’ as theme, Soyinka said the event and its theme were meant to solidarise with Khashoggi, whose assassination he described as a gross violation of human rights. Saying a worldwide reading is usually organised when “a member of the scribbling tribe is under siege, imprisoned, tortured or dehumanised,” the playwright regretted that it was unfortunate that “this (Khashoggi’s) crystallised in memoriam.”

While condemning the impersonation of his identity on Facebook, Soyinka also noted that there was need for right to protection of one’s identity from being stolen besides the protection of right to freedom of expression. He said the media must assume responsibility in order for the nation to have full moral integrity over such issues as that of identity of expressions.

“This is a fundamental human right,” he declared. “Today, we have a situation where a president is said to be not his own identity. That is a very serious one. And we have people who actually take this serious. This is beyond Facebook; we are talking about individuals having their attribution by their identity.”He also revealed that a certain Nigerian, whose address was in Poland, had been impersonating him by running a Facebook account in his name, going as far as obtaining contracts.

According to him, “If we are going to continue to fight for freedom of expression, we must make sure we fight for correct attribution of expressions. I have made statements about the next elections, which I’m never aware of, but that have been done, in my name. We need not just freedom of expression, but also the integrity of freedom of expression.”

Also speaking at the event, Executive Editor, TheNews/PM News, Mr. Kunle Ajibade, stated, “When one of us is treated this way, it behooves all of us to rise in solidarity to affirm our own humanity. We need to voice out and call out those who killed Khashoggi.”

Ajibade lamented the silence of some Islamic groups in Nigeria over the issue, reflecting that they would have risen up over issues of ordinary hijab, but chose to remain silent over murder.

“One expects MURIC to speak out, but the group has not done that,” he charged. “By not doing that, they are calling to question their own humanity. I do not think it is Islamic to keep shut over Khashoggi’s murder. We need to speak out against his killers.”

Also, Coordinator, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Motunrayo Alaka, lamented that journalists had been going through perilous conditions in the course of doing their jobs, noting, “It is not the media’s business to make the government look good, but to make them accountable. We need to make the species (journalists) unendangered.”

The event, which witnessed the reading of some works of Khashoggi in which he criticised the Saudi government for illegal arrests, corruption, unemployment, kickbacks, mismanagement, and selective justice among others, was attended by several participants representing such groups as the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, PEN Nigeria, Committee For Relevant Arts (CORA), Poets in Nigeria and AJ House of Poetry. The event also saw the reading of all articles of UN Human Rights Charter on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 


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