Nigeria: Civic Groups, Media Advocates, Nigerians Condemn Arrest of Premium Times Journalist

Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Abuja

Local and international media rights advocates have criticised the police over the arrest and detention of PREMIUM TIMES' security sector reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, on Tuesday.

Two other PREMIUM TIMES' journalists, editor-in-chief Musikilu Mojeed and education correspondent, Azeezat Adedigba, were also briefly detained by the operatives of the police Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). Unlike Mr Ogundipe, both journalists were released on Tuesday after several hours.

Mr Ogundipe is currently being pressed to disclose his source for a story published by this newspaper, a request he has declined. He was moved to the SARS headquarters on Tuesday where he is being detained.

The International Press Centre (IPC) in a statement by its director, Lanre Arogundade, said it was particularly dismayed that the "Police authorities want Mr Ogundipe to disclose the source of information over a story published by the newspaper on a correspondent between the Inspector General of Police and the Vice President."

"This, to us, is a clear assault on press freedom and a clear threat to the safety of the detained journalist and his colleagues.

"The Police Authorities are also hereby reminded that the Freedom of Information Act, a federal law, enacted in 2011, in Section 16 subsection C confers on the media 'Journalism Confidentiality Privileges' and as such should desist from engaging in unconstitutional acts. We condemn the arrests and detention of the concerned journalists and hereby demand the immediate release of Mr. Ogundipe."

The Social Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) in a tweet said the authorities and the police should immediately and unconditionally release Mr Ogundipe.

SERAP also expressed shock over the freezing of the bank account of the detained journalist by the police.

"Freezing bank account of detained journalist Samuel Ogundipe @PremiumTimesng is a textbook case of a vicious crackdown on critical media. It amounts to a double jeopardy and this must end Now.

"Journalism Is Not a Crime. Detaining and ill-treating journalists isn't just a human rights abuse, but also an attack on the press and Nigerians' freedom of expression and access to information."

Also condemning the detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a tweet expressed concern over the development.

"We gravely concerned by reports that journalist @SamuelOgundipe has been arrested and detained by @PoliceNG for his reporting with @PremiumTimesng."

Amnesty International also condemned the police for "coercing" a journalist to reveal his source.

"Nigeria Police must release journalist #FreeSamuelOgundipe of @PremiumTimesng. Journalism is not a crime and coercing a journalist to reveal his sources is a gross violation. #ENDSAR".

Another civic group, Enough Is Enough also condemned the arrest.

"We condemn the detention of @PremiumTimesng journalist by @PoliceNG. Such attack on the media is unlawful and has no place in a democracy," the group wrote on its Twitter handle

Apart from the civic groups, Nigerians across board and on social media have also been calling for the release of Mr Ogundipe using the hashtag #FreeSamuelOgundipe on Twitter.

"On the same day you ordered the police to overhaul SARS, SARS still arrested Samuel Ogundipe, a @PremiumTimesng journalist because of a story. Please consider this as evidence that SARS needs to be scrapped and not overhauled. #EndSARS," a former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, wrote.

"The arrest of @SamuelOgundipe a Journalist with @PremiumTimesng by @PoliceNG for not disclosing his news source, journalists are not expected to disclose sources. The police should stop arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens. Not on a day government announced #ReformPoliceNG," said Kayode Ogundamisi, influential public commentator and analyst.

"Arresting, detaining @PremiumTimesng journalist @SamuelOgundipe to compel source disclosure is a constitutional violation that should have no place in democracy. @PoliceNG #IGPIdris should order his immediate & unconditional release #FreeSamuelOgundipe @PLACNG @SituationRoomNg," Clement Nwankwo, a human rights lawyer wrote.

"Dear @ProfOsinbajo, on the very day you set the ball rolling on reforming SARS, the same SARS have detained a journalist, @SamuelOgundipe of @PremiumTimesng, and are trying to force him to reveal his source for a story," Cheta Nwanze, a data analyst and public policy expert wrote.

For popular social commentator, Japhet Omojuwa, "#FreeSamuelOgundipe should go hand in hand with #FireTheIG !"

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