Kayode Fasua, editor of the “Contact” newspaper, and Tunde Ajayi, editor of the “Class” newspaper, were on Wednesday, November 26, 2003, arrested by personnel of the Ekiti state command of the Nigeria police. Also arrested were Michael Dada and Bola Fatile, both said to be staff of the Ministry of Justice.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Nigeria, the four persons were arrested for being in possession of copies of the Ekiti Razor newspaper, which was said to contain material intended to disparage the reputation of the state governor, Ayo Fayose. The Assistant Police Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Emmanuel Zanu, also alleged that the publication contained “inciting information that could jeopardize the peace and order in the state”.
Mr Zanu claimed that the security forces had received intelligence that the journalists and their colleagues were conveying copies of the allegedly inciteful publication to the state for circulation. The police, accordingly, intercepted the four at a roadblock and found several copies of the newspaper in their vehicle. Zanu indicated that the journalists and others would be charged to court immediately ongoing investigations are concluded.
The MFWA is concerned about the increasing spate of harassments, arrests and detentions of journalists in Nigeria for publications and comments that the government and state authorities find critical or disparaging Only on Monday, November 24, personnel of the police CID in Lagos arrested and detained three editors of the “Insider Weekly” because of a story carried in the November 24, 2003 edition of the magazine. The publication alleged that top officials of the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo were involved in the illegal bunkering of crude oil. Osa Director, editor-in-chief, Chuks Onwudinjo and Janet Mba-Afolabi, both executive editors, were all kept in police custody until Wednesday, November 26 when, following representations by the magazine’s lawyers and pressures from the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and other prodemocracy advocates, they were charged to court and released on bail.
The magazine has, in fact, alleged that even before these arrests, top-level security officials and politicians had been scheming, through “orthodox and unorthodox means”, to destroy the magazine for its perceived opposition to the Obasanjo administration.
MFWA appeals to the government of President Obasanjo to demonstrate a greater tolerance of, and respect for, the basic democratic tenets of media freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria.