Soldiers Ransack Newspaper’s Offices, Detain Journalists following Story about Military Operations

Armed security personnel including soldiers have invaded the offices of the Daily Trust newspaper in Nigeria’s Federal capital, Abuja, and Maiduguri and arrested two journalists and a technician in the two operations which were carried out on January 6, 2019.

In the first incident, a detachment of soldiers and plain-cloth security officials stormed the Maiduguri regional office of the newspaper and took away the Regional Bureau Chief, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab, after conducting a search at the premises. Neither the company nor the families of the two reporters have heard from them since.

In the second incident, a production staff was taken away from the Abuja head office alongside a number of computers. He was however released after hours of detention.

The Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Trust, Mannir Dan Ali, issued a statement shortly after the incidents in which he said the attack on the newspaper’s offices could be linked to a recent publication in the paper about the military’s operation against Boko Haram.

“We have not been told of the reason for the military operation against this newspaper but suspect it may have to do with the lead story of the Daily Trust on Sunday that dwelt on the military’s effort to retake some towns recently reported to have been lost to insurgents,” the statement read.

Dan Ali revealed that the military had also occupied the newspaper’s office in Lagos.

“In Lagos, military men in seven vehicles arrived at our offices at Textile Labour House in Agidingbi at about 9 pm and remained there until the time of issuing this statement,” The Chief Executive said.

A day later, a spokesperson of the Army, Brigadier General Sani Usman, confirmed that their action was in response to the Daily Trust’s recent article on the military’s anti-terror campaign against Boko Haram. He said the story “divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”

The military’s action against the newspaper has been widely condemned by the local media and press freedom organisations in Nigeria. MFWA’S partner organization in Nigeria, International Press Centre (IPC) condemned the raid and arrests as “a fresh threat to freedom of the press” and “to democracy with the presidential elections less than two months away.”

MFWA joins IPC in condemning the assault on the Daily Trust’s premises and subsequent arrest and seizure of equipment. We call for the unconditional release of the two detained journalists and the return of all seized equipment to the management of the newspaper.

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