Nigerian Journalist Tortured for filming the Police

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the brutal assault of Gabriel Idibia, a Kaduna State Correspondent of the Daily Times newspapers, and demands justice for the journalist.

Idibia was arrested and allegedly tortured by the Nigerian police for photographing their activities in Kaduna on June 11, 2024.

The journalist came upon a group of security officers shepherding a large number of cattle along a public road in Kaduna. He told the MFWA that he took pictures of the scene with intent to subsequently interview the police about the exercise in the hope of getting a public interest story from it. He explains that his interest was based on frequent police arrests stray cattle in Kaduna in recent times.

Idibia told the MFWA that the police officers did not answer his inquiries on the exercise. However, one of the officers got hostile upon realising that he had taken pictures of the exercise, and arrested him. The journalist was subsequently taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) office in Kaduna, where he was subjected to severe physical abuse. He reported that he was struck on the right eye, causing significant injury to his eye. Despite his pleas and the evident injury, he was coerced into writing a statement without access to a lawyer.

“When I finished writing it [the statement], the officers said that my handwriting was not readable. So, on their own they wrote another statement and indicated that I obstructed their operation. After they were done, they asked me to sign. I did not want to sign it but I had to sign it. I could not argue, I had just been punched in the face,” Idibia told the MFWA.

The police seized his phone, deleted the photograph, and took all his personal details, including his contact information and residential address. The journalist expressed fear that these details might be used to harass him further.

“Out of fear I spent the following day in the house, then, I moved to Abuja to stay with my sister. I could not see any light from my righteye. Eventually, a pharmacist friend helped me out, before I was able to get treatment at a hospital,” he added.

Idibia was released in the evening after enduring hours of mistreatment, with one side of his face swollen and almost blinded due to the police assault. Upon his release, he immediately sought out the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Kaduna State Police Command, Mr. Mansir Hassan, to report the incident. However, Mr. Hassan, who appeared to be in a hurry, denied any knowledge of the arrest and promised to investigate the matter, a promise that has since remained unfulfilled.

The MFWA calls on the Nigerian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the unlawful arrest and torture of Benjamin Idibia, and ensure that the police officers involved in this egregious violation of the journalist’s rights are held accountable.

This incident is a flagrant violation of press freedom and a stark reminder of the ongoing dangers faced by journalists in Nigeria. It is unacceptable that a journalist should be subjected to such treatment for performing his professional duty. The Nigerian Authorities must show commitment to upholding the constitutional rights of press freedom by clamping down on such wanton attacks on journalists.

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