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ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian authorities charged two journalists with forgery on Tuesday over a story in which they accused President Goodluck Jonathan of launching a dirty tricks campaign against the opposition.
Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, reporters for local daily Leadership, were detained last week after reporting that Jonathan had issued orders to frustrate a newly potent opposition by any means, including surveillance, ahead of 2015 presidential elections. They were later released.
The story did not say to whom the directive was addressed, but it came complete with a document alleged to be a directive from the president.
A court in the capital Abuja read out the charges of forging a presidential directive, which carry a maximum of seven years in prison and a minimum of three.
Amokeodo, Leadership's news editor, and Ukaibe, a political reporter, did not answer the charges, they said, because Amokeodo had not been able to see the charges.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has a relatively free press by the standards of the region, although journalists are sometimes targeted and harassed by security forces or ruling party thugs, especially in the build-up to elections.
Reporters are also routinely put under surveillance by Nigeria's secret service.
Authorities usually tolerate vitriolic criticism of the president, but the presidency has reacted bitterly over what it says was a false allegation based on a forged document.
The Committee to Protect Journalists last week called on Nigeria's police force to "stop harassing Leadership's staff."
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)