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CPJ Wants detained 13 journalists, bloggers, and media workers Released


Abuja, Nigeria, September 29, 2016 — Nigerian authorities should

immediately release at least 11 journalists, bloggers, and media support

staff detained in recent days across the country and stop harassing the

media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“The impunity with which Nigerian security forces have recently attacked

the press is reminiscent of Nigeria’s darkest days of military rule,” said

CPJ West Africa Representative Peter Nkanga. “We call on President

Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to reverse this alarming slide and let

journalists do their jobs without fear of reprisal.”

At around 1:45 a.m. on September 21, military soldiers and officers of

Nigeria’s special police, the State Security Service, arrested 10

journalists and media workers from the independent news website Watchdog

Media News at the Douban Hotel in Benin, the capital of the southern

Nigerian state of Edo, their employer reported. The crew was in the city

to cover gubernatorial elections scheduled to take place today, according

to news reports.
Watchdog Media reported that the journalists were “brutalised,” and were

arrested wearing only their underwear. Taiye Garrick, the editor of

Watchdog Media, told CPJ that witnesses said the crew were beaten with

barbed wire and had cold water poured on their bodies before they were

arrested. The elections were initially scheduled for September 10, but

were postponed based on fears that “hoodlums” were planning to disrupt

voting, according to press reports.
According to press reports, army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said in a

September 22 statement that the army acted on “credible security reports”

that hired “hoodlums” were in the hotel preparing to attack the state.

He said the journalists were arrested in possession of incriminating,

sensitive election material, without elaborating, and that they had not

identified themselves as journalists.
“All the suspects were treated humanely and in the most dignified manner,”

he said, according to the Premium Times.
Watchdog Media subsequently published pictures of the crew conducting

interviews on the streets of Benin while wearing their press credentials.

Garrick told CPJ that the SSS is targeting his newspaper because of

material the staff collected while covering the Edo South senatorial

district before the elections, which were initially scheduled for

September 10, but postponed over security concerns.

The crew returned to the state on September 20 to cover the Edo North and

Edo Central senatorial districts ahead of the September 28 elections.

Garrick said he refused an SSS invitation to visit its office in Edo

State, where his crew has been held without access to family or a lawyer,

because he feared arrest himself, according to news reports.

The 10 journalists and media workers have not yet been arraigned.

“The Edo State government wants to stop us from reporting the elections

because, sincerely, the facts we were getting from the opinion polls we

were running from our call centre and ‘vox-pop’ interviews with people on

the streets were really damaging against them,” Garrick said.

According to press reports, those arrested include: production manager

Tony Abulu; reporters Richard Hasley, Opara Uche, and Handy Romeo Eze;

video editor Kelvin Toryila; information technology specialists Lanre

Ogunleye, Balogun Ehigie, and Kenneth Danpome; a logistics manager

identified only as Mathew; and driver Joe Epi.
At a press conference in the city of Benin yesterday, the head of the Edo

State branch of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Roland Osakwe, said the

union was “seriously embarrassed” to discover the detained men were not

journalists, and “disclaimed” them on behalf of the union “as a way of

sending a clear message to those who find it most convenient to

impersonate members of the pen profession for pecuniary gains.”

Asked about the NUJ’s statement, three journalists at Watchdog

Media’sAbuja office and Garrick, the website’s editor, today told CPJ that

those detained were their colleagues. Garrick said he was planning on

bringing a defamation suit regarding Osakwe’s comments on behalf of the

In a separate event, police from the northern Nigerian state of Katsina on

September 19 arrested Jamil Mabai — the publisher of Cliqq Magazine and a

columnist with Katsina Reporters – in the neighboring state of Kaduna

after Mabai on September 6 took to social media to criticize Aminu Masari,

the governor of Katsina State, over the government’s distribution of 3,000

coffins to mosques while it was unable to pay civil servants their

salaries, according to news reports.
Katsina Police Commissioner Usman Abdullahi said that Mabai was arrested

following the state government’s complaint over his tweets, according to

news reports. Abdullahi justified Mabai’s arrest by saying “We had to

invite him to assist the police.”
Abdu Labaran, Masari’s spokesman, denied that the state reported the

blogger to the police, the reports said.
A magistrate court on September 22 said it had no jurisdiction in the case

and remanded Mabai to prison pending a trial before another court. Peter

Israel, Mabai’s lawyer, told CPJ that police charged Mabai with inciting

disaffection against the government.
In a second session today, the magistrate insisted on remanding Mabai to

prison custody until the prosecution could apply to try the case before a

competent higher court, Israel said. Mabai remains in state custody.

Bloggers Bashir Dauda and Umar Faruq were detained on September 19 and

arraigned September 22 on charges of abetment for writing about Mabai’s

story with the “intent to cause civil disturbance” and “to expose governor

Masari to public ridicule,” news reports said . Israel told CPJ that the

two were released, pending trial, on September 27.
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