30 December 2012

Nigeria: Media-Security Operatives' Relations Go Sour Over Journalists' Arrest

Photo: Vanguard
Nigerian Army

With the abduction of an editor of Al-Mizan [a Hausa weekly magazine] Malam Muhammed Awwal and his reporter Malam Aliyu Saleh by soldiers in Kaduna last week, it appears the relative trust that hitherto existed between the media and security operatives in the country is being jeopardized.

The two journalists were allegedly abducted in their homes by soldiers who also allegedly manhandled their wives.

Since the Boko Haram crisis started media practitioners in the country are at the receiving end as they are constantly attacked by both the insurgents and security agents over their reports.

It's being speculated in some quarters that the latest arrest of the journalists in Kaduna was because of a story done by their newspaper on the activities of the security operatives in Yobe State due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the state.

Given this, many of the media bodies and associations in the country have demanded for the journalists' release.

Five days ago, officials of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kaduna State Council, called for the immediate release of both Malam Awal and Malam Saleh.

A statement signed by the council's chairman Comrade Yusuf Idris on Wednesday alleged that both men were taken away from their homes in the early hours of Monday after their wives and children were manhandled by the security operatives, and their whereabouts unknown.

"We views this clandestine operation as primitive and unwarranted. There are more civilized and acceptable standards of carrying out investigations," they said. "This method of attacking journalists and beating up their wives in their homes before they are taken away is unacceptable."

Al-Mizan's Editor-in-Chief, Ibrahim Musa, in a press statement also demanded for the immediate release of the staffers of the weekly magazine. He said it was not clear why they were arrested. "However, it might not be unconnected with the lead story of the current edition of the newspaper which revealed the atrocities of the Joint Task Force in Potiskum in which 84 persons have been abducted," he stated.

Army Public Relations at the 1Division of the Nigerian Army, Col. Sani Usman, however, denied that soldiers had detained the journalists. He said the issue would be investigated.

But the State Security Service has told senior journalists in Kaduna that unless the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Mizan surrenders himself, they would not release the two journalists. A source, who is privy to attempts to get the reporters released, said that at a meeting on Wednesday in Abuja with the leadership of NUJ officials, the SSS promised to release the reporters as soon as Mr Ibrahim surrenders himself.

With Agency Report

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