Two journalists from a leading Nigerian newspaper, the Guardian, were jailed on July 5 by a Lagos military tribunal because they published an incorrect story about the naming of a new envoy to Britain.
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Background: Two journalists from a leading Nigerian newspaper, the Guardian, were jailed on July 5 by a Lagos military tribunal because they published an incorrect story about the naming of a new envoy to Britain. The one-year sentences were the first handed down under recent regulations covering press operations. Guardian diplomatic correspondent Tunde Thompson and assistant news editor Nduke Irabor were found guilty of falsely reporting on April 8 that an army officer who replaced a civilian as Nigeria's ambassador to Britain would not get the post. The publishers were fined about 67,000 US dollars and ordered to pay by the following day. Thompson and Irabor, in detention since mid-April, were acquitted on two other charges. Judge Ayinde, heading the special tribunal, ruled that stories published on March 31 and April 1 were true. The reports said Nigeria was closing eleven foreign missions, and that eight military chiefs were to be appointed as ambassadors. The journalists were charged under a decree which gives Major-General Mohammed Buhari's government powers to punish journalists and publishers and close newspapers for reports which are false or which ridicule or dispute public officials. In his judgement, Ayinde said the April 8 story was false in every detail. The report said Major-General Halidu Hannaniya, recently posted to London as Nigeria's new high commissioner, had been dropped in favour of retired army officer Major-General Ibrahim Haruna. Since the new year, a total of six journalists have been detained.