The Committee To Protect Journalists, (CPJ) an international press freedom monitoring organisation, has described the arrest, detention, and prosecution of Haruna Salisu Mohammed, Publisher of WikkiTimes, and Idris Kamal, reporter as examples of the criminalization of the press in Nigeria.
The CPJ in a statement on Friday said Nigerian authorities should do everything possible to drop all charges against the journalists and allow them to perform their duties without fear of being harassed or arrested.
“The prosecution of WikkiTimes journalists Haruna Mohammed Salisu and Idris Kamal offers yet another example of the criminalization of the press in Nigeria.
“Authorities should swiftly reform the country’s laws to prevent the targeting of journalists, drop all charges against Salisu and Kamal, and allow them to work without fear of arrest or harassment,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from Durban, South Africa was quoted as saying.
Police invited Haruna to the Bauchi State criminal Investigation Department to respond to a petition brought to the police against him by Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a member representing Bauchi Federal Constituency in Abuja over a report WikkiTimes published on 18th May 2022.
The report detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of Hussaini Musa Gwaba, APC Chairman Bauchi local government.
The arrest of the two journalists was widely condemned by press freedom groups.
Two press freedom groups, International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria and the International Press Centre (IPC), have condemned the arrest and prosecution of Mohammed and Kamal.
In a statement, the IPI Nigeria Secretary, Ahmed I. Shekarau, condemned the arrest, detention and subsequent arraignment of the journalists.
“Anyone who is aggrieved by any news item published by WikkiTimes should seek redress in court instead of using the police or other security agents to harass the journalists,” Mr Shekarau advised.
After honouring the invitation, Haruna, who went along with Idris was detained by police. The duos were released on bail and asked to report the next day.
On reporting the next day, the two journalists were charged to a local magistrate court on three counts charges of defamation, criminal conspiracy and cyber stalking.
The court ordered that the journalists be kept in police custody till the following day. However, the next day, Cyberstalking charge was dropped leaving the journalists facing court on allegations of defamation and criminal conspiracy.