Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional independent non-governmental organization headquartered in Ghana, has contracted an Abuja-based law firm, M.O.N. Legal to provide legal assistance to WikkiTimes, its publisher Haruna Mohammed Salisu and reporter, Kamal Idriss over a defamatory suit filed against them by Makkah Eye Clinic.
Announcing the support on its website, the foundation says the assistance was rendered on WikkiTimes under its project, “Enhancing Freedom of Expression Online in West Africa through Monitoring, Research, and Support for Legal Defence.”
MFWA says the project was “being implemented with funding support from the Media Legal Defence Initiative”, which it says “has provided support for legal defence to Haruna Mohammed Salisu, Wikki Times and Reporter, Kamal Idris.”
The foundation also condemned the threat “on the publishers of the online newspaper and call on the police to investigate it thoroughly to bring the perpetrators to book.
“We encourage the staff of WikkiTimes to take precautions and urge the security agencies to take steps to secure the premises and personnel of the media outlet against any harm or threat.”
Confirming the support, WikkiTimes’ Haruna Mohammed Salisu described the gesture as “emboldening.”
“I was very excited about the development, because I was copied in the email that broke the news of the assistance provided by MFWA.
“Without support like this, the practice of credible and independent journalism that ought to hold power to account will be highly unlikely.
“As a platform whose philosophy is to provide adversarial journalism, this support from MFWA has reminded us that there exist, institutions that are willing to support responsive, responsible and aggressive journalism that will speak for those who cannot speak”, Haruna said.
WikkiTimes had published an explosive investigation detailing how the clinic consistently maltreated patients seeking medical help, systematically disengaged indigenous staff on frivolous allegations.
The report also unearthed how the hospital continued to short-change the Bauchi State government on tax revenues for six years – allegations the management of the hospital conceded in an interview.
The investigation also led to the Christian Blind Mission, CBM, an international Christian development organisation working in Nigeria, suspending its eye care programme with Makkah Eye Specialist Hospital, Bauchi.
The foundation, after the publication of the report, dragged WikkiTimes, its publisher and reporter to court.