Nigeria journalists get bail in polio attacks case

Updated 14 February 2013
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Nigeria journalists get bail in polio attacks case

KANO, Nigeria: Two Nigerian journalists and a cleric were granted bail yesterday after being charged over a controversial radio program on polio vaccines days before deadly attacks on polio clinics.
Gunmen attacked two polio clinics in the northern city of Kano on Feb. 8, killing at least 10 people, after Wazobia FM broadcast a story on claims of forced vaccinations.
One of the Wazobia journalists said he was beaten and his equipment seized during an altercation at the cleric’s home when health officials were seeking to force the cleric to have his children immunized.
The program also allegedly revived conspiracy theories surrounding polio campaigns, with previous claims having been made of the vaccines being part of a Western plot to harm Muslims.
Two journalists from Wazobia and controversial cleric Abubakar Rabo were all charged on Tuesday and initially denied bail.
Magistrate Ibrahim Bello granted them bail yesterday of 100,000 naira each ($ 635, 475 euros), while each suspect must provide two guarantors.
“In Nigerian law, any offence that attracts a sentence not exceeding three years is bailable,” Bello said.
“The maximum sentence for the charges against the accused upon conviction is three years, and for that the court hereby grants them bail.”
Charges include criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance, intentional insult, obstruction of a public servant in discharge of his public functions, defamation and uttering injurious falsehoods.
Claims that polio vaccinations are used to render Muslims infertile have long spread in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, often stoked by local politicians and clerics, dealing setbacks to efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.
Such conspiracy theories led to the suspension of vaccination campaigns in Kano in 2003.


Nigeria is one of only three countries still considered to have endemic polio, along with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It is not yet clear who was responsible for the Feb. 8 attacks at the clinics and there was no evidence linking Wazobia’s piece to the violence.
Boko Haram has carried out attacks in Kano, though gangs linked to local politics also operate.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Wednesday calling on Nigerian authorities to drop the criminal charges against the journalists.
“We are deeply troubled by the very serious criminal charges lodged against Wazobia FM journalists over a radio program that raised critical questions about the Kano state government’s handling of a polio vaccination campaign,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.


Indian workers dying on World Bank-backed tea plantations, say campaigners

Updated 29 min 50 sec ago
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Indian workers dying on World Bank-backed tea plantations, say campaigners

  • “The World Bank has utterly failed to exercise its leverage to address the CAO’s damning findings”
  • The IFC invested $7.8 million in the $87 million project, which aimed to create more than 30,000 jobs and promote shareholder ownership by workers

CHENNAI, India: At least seven workers have died in the last two years on Indian tea plantations that are partly financed by the World Bank, charities said on Friday in an official complaint.
Exploitation and poor working conditions persist after being exposed by a 2016 investigation by the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO), an accountability mechanism of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the charities said.
The IFC and Tata Global Beverages in 2009 set up Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), which is partly owned by workers and was intended to end labor abuses on plantations previously run by Tata in the northeastern state of Assam.
“Nine years on, we hear of tea workers who have died following work-related accidents, prolonged exposure to hazardous pesticides and lack of adequate medical care,” said Wilfred Topno of People’s Action for Development.
After the 2016 investigation, the IFC said it was working with APPL to improve conditions. But in their complaint to the CAO, the advocacy groups said not enough has been done.
“The World Bank has utterly failed to exercise its leverage to address the CAO’s damning findings,” said Anirudha Nagar, of the Accountability Counsel.
In an email, Tata rejected the allegations.
“We would like to clarify that the statement regarding alleged deaths of plantations workers at APPL is incorrect,” said company spokesman.
He added that APPL has been introducing measures to improve worker safety, including cutting back on pesticide use, providing protective gear and upgrading medical facilities.
The IFC also cited improvements, stating that a 2017 independent assessment report showed progress on all fronts, and said it was looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of workers.
“Any loss of life is tragic and our sympathies go out to those who lost beloved family members,” spokesman Aaron Shane Rosenberg told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.
In their complaint, the charities cited a 32-year-old worker who died after severing two fingers in a tea plucking machine and not receiving proper medical care, and a worker with tuberculosis who died while carrying pesticide cans.
“Workers are unable to afford the bare minimum necessities, let alone the cost of medical care, which is often necessary due to sub-standard care provided by APPL hospitals,” said Jayshree Satpute of the non-profit Nazdeek.
Tata Global Beverages — which owns Tetley, the second-largest tea brand in the world — has a 41 percent stake in APPL and the IFC owns 20 percent, with the remainder held by workers and smaller firms.
The IFC invested $7.8 million in the $87 million project, which aimed to create more than 30,000 jobs and promote shareholder ownership by workers.
When they formed APPL in 2009, Tata and the IFC made pledges that included increasing wages, providing adequate housing and health care for workers, improving sanitation and lowering exposure to pesticides.