MFWA Condemns Detention of Premium Times Journalist; Calls for His Release

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is outraged about the abuse of PREMIUM TIMES journalist Samuel Ogundipe by the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.

In an attempt to force and intimidate the journalist into revealing his sources, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force, have arbitrarily arrested the journalist and  been interrogating him in detention, a show of force and unprofessionalism.

The police took Ogundipe to the SARS headquarters in Abuja in the afternoon of August 14, 2018 where he was made to write a statement regarding the source of story he wrote about a report the IGP submitted on a recent incident at the National Assembly.

During the interrogation on August 14 and 15, Ogundipe refused to name his source in line with journalism ethics and in keeping with regional and international frameworks such as the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa (Article XV).

As if Ogundipe’s arbitrary arrest was not enough, the police went a step further to freeze the bank account of the journalist after he refused to name his source. According to PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, “one of the police officers handling the investigation, Emmanuel Onyeneho, an inspector, was heard saying they had to freeze the account to incapacitate the reporter.”

Onyeneho also reportedly told Ogundipe that they believe he had been consistently writing more negative stories about the police than positive ones and they (the police) considered that a crime. The police insisted that they would only release the journalist after he discloses sources of all the stories he had written about the Nigeria Police Force.

Aside of Mr Ogundipe, the editor-in-chief of PREMIUM TIMES, Musikilu Mojeed, and another journalist Azeezat Adedigba, were also harassed and detained by the police at the SARS headquarters in Abuja. Mojeed and Adedigba were later released after hours of detention while Ogundipe remains in detention.

The behavior of the police is shameful and worrying. The officers from the Nigeria Police Force have consistently behaved in unacceptable manner as an entity which is to protect the human rights of citizens including journalists. The Police have in recent times been at the centre of a wave of wanton abuses against journalists and citizens. We wish to draw the attention of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to the continuing assault on journalists by members of the police and its implication for citizens’ enjoyment of their right to information.

The MFWA calls on the IGP to ensure the immediate release of the journalist and also ensure that the safety of journalists are protected in Nigeria, which remains one of the most unsafe places for journalists in West Africa. We also appeal to him to, as a matter of urgency, call his officers to order and ensure that those involved in the arbitrary arrests and detention of the PREMIUM TIMES staff are punished.

Finally, the MFWA urges President Muhammadu Buhari to task the IGP to reform the Nigeria Police Force and its various agencies, particularly the Department of State Security (DSS) and State Security Service (SSS) who have become symbols of human rights abuses on journalists and other citizens.

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