Posted by News Express | 15 August 2018 | 852 times
The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have demanded the immediate release of PREMIUM TIMES Security Reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, detained by the Nigeria Police Force for carrying out his constitutional duty.
A statement signed by GOCOP’s Publicity Secretary, Olumide Iyanda, on Wednesday also condemned the arrest by the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad and harassment of the online newspaper’s Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and Education Reporter, Azeezat Adedigba, both of who have been released.
The Guild noted with dismay that the Police action was carried out on the day Acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered the restructuring of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which is notorious for blatant human rights abuses.
While Mojeed and Adedigba have been released after harrowing interrogations, Ogundipe was still in detention as at Wednesday morning with no contact with his family or employers.
GOCOP considers the circumstances of the journalist’s arrest as a damning indictment of the President Muhammadu Buhari Government, which has been accused by several groups and individuals of gross abuse of citizens’ rights.
It advised the Nigerian Government to lecture its security agents on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, which confers Journalism Confidentiality Privileges on the media.
GOCOP demanded the release of Ogundipe and other journalists held by the Police and other government agencies without further delay.
Also today, CPJ joined other prominent individuals and groups in condemning the arrest and detention of Ogundipe. In a statement, CPJ urged the Nigerian Police to immediately release the detained journalist, stressing that Ogundipe is not a criminal
Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator, speaking from Johannesburg, South Africa, said: “CPJ is gravely concerned about reports that Premium Times journalist Samuel Ogundipe was detained by Nigerian Police yesterday for his reporting.
“Samuel Ogundipe must be released immediately without any condition and be allowed to report without fear of reprisal.
“Journalists are ethically bound not to disclose their confidential sources and the fact that police reportedly arrested him because he refused to name his source is outrageous.
“Samuel Ogundipe is a journalist who is protecting his sources, and not a criminal. He must be freed now.”
Similarly, MRA today called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Ogundipe.
In a statement issued by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA said: “We are dismayed by this increasing resort by the Buhari Administration to tactics of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners in breach of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws. We are seriously concerned that such acts appear to be on the upswing as the 2019 elections draw nearer and urge the Government to retrace its steps in order not to permanently damage public confidence in democratic governance.”
Mr. Ogundipe was reportedly invited by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police to its headquarters in Abuja on August 14, 2018 and arrested when he honoured the invitation. He was then transferred to the IGP Monitoring Unit at Force Headquarters, where he is currently being detained.
The Police are reported to have frozen the reporter’s personal bank account without any warrant from any court, just like his arrest and detention.
The Editor-in-Chief of the online newspaper, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, and its education correspondent, Ms Azeezat Adedigba, were reported to have been initially arrested, manhandled and briefly detained by the police before being released.
While Ms Adedigba was released after about three hours of detention, Mr. Mojeed and Mr. Ogundipe were driven from the SARS headquarters to the IGP Monitoring Unit at Force Headquarters where the police forced Mr. Ogundipe to write a statement.
Mr. Longe advised the Police: “If you have any actionable case against Mr. Ogundipe or any other journalist, you should follow the due process of the Law; you should go to court and obtain a warrant if you have any evidence of criminal conduct by the journalist that necessitates his arrest and detention and the freezing of his bank account, rather than arresting and clamping him into detention in a manner reminiscent of the dictatorial practices that characterised the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari as a military Head of State.”
According to him, if Nigeria wants to be taken seriously by the international community, then it must abide by the established norms and standards under international law, which abhors the criminalisation of journalistic activities or the right of citizens to freely express themselves.
Saying that “democratic governance presupposes respect for the rule of law”, Mr. Longe stressed: “it is disheartening that the Police went outside their mandate to freeze Mr. Ogundipe’s bank account in order to financially suffocate him and force information from him, contrary to the laws of the land. We find this action to be unjustifiable and unbecoming of any democratic institution.”
Mr. Longe called on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to preoccupy himself with the task of reforming the Force and, in particular, overhauling SARS which has become the symbol of government brutality against its own people in Nigeria.
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