The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, condemns in strong terms the harassment and molestation of Mr. Haruna Mohammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes online newspaper and one of the reporters, Mr. Idris Kamal, by the Police in Bauchi, Bauchi State.
The ordeal of the two journalists began on Monday, June 27, 2022, when they honoured an invitation from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) following a petition by Mr. Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a member of the House of Representatives representing Bauchi Federal Constituency concerning a Wikki Times report of May 18, 2022 on the sudden death of Chairman of the All Progressive Peoples Congress (APC) in Bauchi Local Government area of the State.
The journalists arrived the station about 10am on Monday but after making a statement they were clamped into a cell where they alleged that they were physically assaulted. Despite the presence of their Lawyer at the Police Station, they were not set free until about 10 hours later and asked to report back on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 for further interrogation.
The two journalists again reported at the SCIID Bauchi on Tuesday as directed but were promptly taken before a Bauchi Magistrates Court where they were charged for criminal conspiracy, defamation of character and cyber stalking. The court ruled that they should be held in custody until tomorrow, Wednesday June 29, 2022.
IPC is worried about this trend of events and calls on the Police Command in Bauchi to avoid being used as tools of harassment against the journalists. “Since the petitioner alleged defamation, the Police should have in the first instance advised him to seek legal redress instead of illegally detaining the journalists for 10 hours on Monday, June 27, 2022 and subjecting them to physical and mental harassment in the process”, Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said in a statement. He added that it now behoves on the Police authorities in the State to ensure the safety of Mohammed and Kamal.
Mr. Arogundade said journalists should not continue to be treated as endangered species in Nigeria, stating that in all circumstances the security agencies must always strive to follow the path of the rule of law in handling complaints or petitions against journalists and other media professionals, just as they should normally do for all citizens.