Nigerian police detained journalist Madu Onuorah over alleged defamation

Officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), on May 22, 2024, arrested Madu Onuorah, publisher and editor-in-chief of Globalupfront Newspaper, from his residence in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

The officers, who arrested Onuorah, around 6pm in presence of his wife and children, whisked him away in a Siena bus after seizing the editor’s phones and denying him access to his lawyer and relatives.

Following a statement by the Nigeria Union of Journalists’, condemning the “commando-like raiding” of Onuorah’s home and failure of police to protect free press, Daniel Ndukwe, the Enugu police spokesperson, in a statement said the journalist was arrested “after efforts made to formally invite him failed”.

He said the security agency acted on a petition written to the Enugu police commissioner “over an alleged defamatory publication he made against a US-based reverend sister”.

The management of the newspaper said its editor was freed on May 23, 2024.

“We have confirmed the release (on bail) of our Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Madu Onuorah who was abducted by men of the Ebonyi Police Command on Wednesday 22/5/2024 evening from his residence in Lugbe, Abuja,” the statement read. “He was released late Thursday, 23/5/2024 night by Enugu State Police Command.”

“We solidly stand by our Editor-in-Chief and the harmless story we published. We insist the police station is not a court of law where alleged defamation cases are tried.”

Speaking on how he was arrested, Onuorah said police tricked his 10-year-old daughter into opening the gate of his home, and then “came in with guns, threatening me.”

He added that no charges had been filed against him since he was released. He is, however, expected to return to Enugu to meet with the police.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the continuing arrests of journalists in Nigeria and enjoins the government to comply with a Federal High Court order of February 16, 2024, directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of all attacks against journalists.

Meanwhile, local media groups, including the Media Rights Agenda, and the Lagos state-based International Press Centre, have condemned Onuorah’s arrest.

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