Hold to account officers who arbitrarily detained journalist Kasarahchi Aniagolu

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the arrest and detention of Nigerian journalist, Kasarahchi Aniagolu, and urges the authorities to sanction the officers who carried the arbitrary arrest and confiscated the victim’s equipment.

Aniagolu, a reporter with The Whistler, an Abuja-based newspaper, was arrested on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 while covering the raid on Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in Wuse Zone 4. Despite identifying herself as a journalist and showing her identity card, she was harassed, manhandled and thrown into the police van.

Nigerian operatives including officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday raided some Bureau De Change outlets in Abuja, arresting over 100 operators as the country’s currency slipped further.

Aniagolu who, was sent to cover the incident by her media house, was arrested and detained at the Anti-Violence Crime Unit of the police in Guzape, Abuja. Despite identifying herself as a journalist, the reporter was paraded alongside over 95 BDC operators at the FCT Anti-Criminal Unit.

She was released after about eight hours in detention, following a chorus of protests and condemnation from the media fraternity.

The reporter raised the alarm of her arrest at 1:17 pm, detailing the circumstances that led to her arrest.

“I have been arrested and I am at the SARS headquarters (FCT Anti-violence Crime Unit). I was arrested for recording the raid on the Bureau de Change guys.

 “They hit my phone and picked it. They confiscated my laptop and they are parading me like a criminal gang” Anaigolu said in a series of voice note messages sent to her colleagues via WhatsApp, according to The Whistler.

“We are deeply disturbed by the complete disregard for press freedom by the Nigeria Police Force and the blatant violation of Ms. Aniagolu’s fundamental rights. The physical assault and threats to her life are utterly unacceptable and a direct attack on independent journalism,” The Whistler protested in a statement issued a day after the incident.

“We call for a swift and transparent investigation into her unlawful arrest, assault, and detention. Those responsible for these actions must also be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” the statement from The Whistler continued.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is equally appalled at the autocratic action of the police, which does not only amounts to breach of the constitutional rights of the arrested journalist but also smacks of attempts by authorities to gag press freedom in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Constitution enshrines press freedom and the right of citizens to access information under Chapter 4 Section 39(1-2).  Ms. Aniagolu was perfectly within her rights as journalist to report on that public interest issue and fulfil the public’s right to access information.

The MFWA therefore joins the many voices in Nigeria demanding accountability for the arbitrary detention of the reporter and the confiscation of her working equipment. We also urge the police and political authorities in Nigeria to take steps to end the increasing trend of police hostility against the media.

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