The Media Foundation for West Africa MFWA is deeply concerned about the continuing harassment of Haruna Mohammed Salisu, publisher of the WikkiTimes news website and calls on the government of Bauch State to uphold the rights of the journalist.
On March 9, 2023, a magistrate court in Bauchi State ordered police operatives to release a mobile phone and subscriber identify module (SIM) cards belonging to the journalist, but a week after the order the police have refused to comply.
Security officers close to Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, arrested Salisu while he was covering Nigeria’s February 25, 2023, presidential elections at Duguri, the governor’s hometown. He was detained and his phone seized. The journalist alleges that the governor ordered his arrest.
On March 7, Haruna was arraigned at Magistrate Court III on a one-count charge of inciting public disturbance, an allegation the publisher rejected. He was granted bail, but would not be released until March 9 when he satisfied the bail conditions. The police, however, refused to release his mobile phone containing two SIM cards.
Despite Salisu’s lawyer, Gambo Idris, obtaining a court order asking the police to release his client’s phone, the Police have continued to illegally keep it.
The lack of access to his phone will obviously hamper Salisu’s work as a journalist, and disrupt his social life. But Salisu says his biggest blow has been at the emotional level. He told the MFWA he is apprehensive about what tampering the police might be doing with his phone, what content they might be accessing and to what end.
Salisu also said his family has been greatly affected by his arrest and detention.
“My old mother fell sick and my wife is still traumatized,” he told the MFWA in a telephone chat.
From the arbitrary arrest and detention of Salisu to the seizure of the journalist’s phone and defiance of a court order to release same, the police in Bauchi state have acted with utter impunity. And the MFWA finds it unacceptable for a law enforcement agency to act in such a lawless manner. We therefore urge Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed to call the police to order and to personally ensure an end to the persecution of Salisu.