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Nigeria’s Police Crack Down On Press: CPJ Condemns Arrest, Detention of Peoples Gazette Journalists

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The Committee to Protect Journalists, (CPJ) has condemned the Nigeria Police Force over the arrest and detention of the Peoples Gazette journalists over a publication on Nigeria’s former Army Chief Tukur Buratai.

CPJ in a statement called on the Nigerian authorities to cease harassing employees of the Peoples Gazette and reform the country’s laws to decriminalize defamation.

“Mid-day on Friday, July 22, police arrived at the privately owned news website’s office in Abuja, the capital, and arrested assistant managing editor John Adenekan, according to the outlet’s managing editor, Samuel Ogundipe, who spoke to CPJ over the phone, and media reports.

“Police returned about 30 minutes later and arrested four more people: reporters Ameedat Adeyemi and Sammy Ogbu, and administrative staff members Grace Oke and Justina Tayani, according to those sources.

“Authorities released Adeyemi, Ogbu, and Tayani shortly thereafter, and released Adenekan and Oke on bail Friday evening, according to Ogundipe and Peoples Gazette lawyer Ken Eluma Asogwa, who also spoke to CPJ by phone” the statement read in part.

The Peoples Gazzette in a report had documented how operatives of the ICPC conducted an operation that led to the recovery of over a billion naira from the former chief of army staff Tukur Buratai.

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The report, WikkiTimes learned, infuriated the former army chief who filed a complaint against the employees of the medium, a move that spurred the crackdown on the journalists.

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“The arrest of five Peoples Gazette staff members over a report published by their outlet is a gross overreaction and a direct attack on freedom of the press in Nigeria. Nigerian authorities should cease harassing and intimidating the outlet and decriminalize defamation nationwide,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from Durban, South Africa. “There is no reason for Nigerian police to arrest journalists over their reporting. It’s something that happens far too often in the country, and authorities should act swiftly to reverse this trend.”

WikkiTimes reports that over the years, Nigeria Police Force has earned notoriety for cracking down on Journalists performing their professional duties.

The Police are usually used by politicians and dubious elements to harass journalists and crackdown on dissenting voices.

The crackdown on the Peoples Gazzette Journalists marked another puerile behaviour by the police.

CPJ recalled that in 2017, Nigerian police arrested Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of the news website Premium Times, and Evelyn Okakwu, a Premium Times reporter who now works as a CPJ correspondent, over a defamation complaint by Buratai.

Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator described such actions as an affront to the freedom of the press in Nigeria.

“The arrest of five Peoples Gazette staff members over a report published by their outlet is a gross overreaction and a direct attack on freedom of the press in Nigeria. Nigerian authorities should cease harassing and intimidating the outlet and decriminalize defamation nationwide.

“There is no reason for Nigerian police to arrest journalists over their reporting. It’s something that happens far too often in the country, and authorities should act swiftly to reverse this trend,” she said.

Recently, WikkiTimes journalists were also arrested and charged to court by the police over a publication, an action the CPJ and other pressure groups widely condemned.

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