The OurMumuDonDo Movement wednesday said it would protest against the arbitrary arrest of Premium Times journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, today if the Nigerian Police fail to release him from their custody.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), international rights group, Amnesty International (AI), the International Press Centre (IPC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) yesterday demanded the immediate release of Ogundipe.
Ogundipe was arrested by the Police after he declined to disclose the source and identity of person(s) purported to have leaked the report by the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, to acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the invasion of the National Assembly by personnel of the Department of State Service (DSS) spearheaded by the sacked Director General, Lawal Daura.
Concerned Nigerians have mount pressure on the Police to release Ogundipe, arguing that under the Nigerian law, journalists are not obligated to divulge their journalistic source except in exceptional cases based on circumstantial grounds and supported by law.
But in a statement signed by Charles Oputa, OurMumuDonDo Movement; Adeyanju Adedeji Concerned Nigerians; Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy and Moses Paul of Mad Connectt, the groups maintained that the arrest of Ogundipe, to say the least, amounts to abuse of Nigeria’s constitution with regards to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
They said the group “wishes to express its outright disapproval of the current onslaught on press freedom in Nigeria by the Nigerian Police Force.
“We are extremely concerned that the IG, Ibrahim Idris, would openly flout the law of the land by unlawfully detaining Mr. Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times Newspaper for refusing to disclose the source of his story.
“This arrest is an open affront on chapter IV, S. 39 (1) of CFRN 1999 as amended, which guarantees the freedom of expression of Nigerian citizens and the freedom of the press in Nigeria.
“We must emphasize that this arrest by the Nigerian Police is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate, muzzle, and devitalise our press. The press is a crucial institution of our democracy, and fearless journalists like Ogundipe should be encouraged and not intimidated with coercion.”
“On a final note, we would like to state categorically that we will not hesitate to mobilise Nigerians of conscience to the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in Abuja on August 16, 2018, if by the end of August 15, Ogundipe of Premium Times is not released unconditionally.”
In separate petitions to the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and Inspector-General of Police, the other groups also demanded that Ogundipe’s personal bank account be unfrozen by the police.
In a statement issued by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA said: “We are dismayed by this increasing resort by the Buhari Administration to tactics of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners in breach of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws. We are seriously concerned that such acts appear to be on the upswing as the 2019 elections draw nearer and urge the Government to retrace its steps in order not to permanently damage public confidence in democratic governance.”
The NUJ’s August 15 letter signed by its National President, Mr. Abdulwaheed Odusile, accused the IG of hounding the press and urged the Acting President to call him to order.
“The journalist is being held to disclose his source of information, a demand that is against the ethical precepts of our profession.”
The NUJ recalled the abduction and detention of two journalists who are brothers, Daniel and Izuchukwu Elomba as well as the abduction of the National Assembly correspondent of Daily Trust, Abdulahi Krishi, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
It added: “It is obvious that the excesses of the IGP against the media is giving your government a bad image as an anti- press government, even when it’s obvious these infractions were carried out without The Presidency’s imprimatur.
“We therefore implore Your Excellency to call the Inspector-General to order and stop his incessant attacks on the media.”
Amnesty International tasked the police to “immediately and unconditionally release journalist Samuel Ogundipe, who has been in unlawful police detention since yesterday (Tuesday).
“Reports that police detained Samuel Ogundipe with the intention of forcing him to reveal his sources are extremely disturbing and illustrate the level of harassment and intimidation that Nigerian journalists face.
“The duty of journalists is not to please the authorities – it is to share information in the interest of the public, and forcing journalists to reveal their sources is illegal.”
In its statement, the IPC 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 correspondence 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.”
IPC reminded the Police that Section 16(C) of the Freedom of Information Act, “confers on journalists the media ‘Journalism Confidentiality Privileges’ and as such” the police should desist from unconstitutional acts.
Similarly, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) dismayed by the “increasing resort to tactics of intimidation and harassment” of media practitioners in breach of the Constitution and other laws.
In a statement signed by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, the MRA said it was “seriously concerned that such acts appear to be on the upswing as the 2019 elections draw nearer.”
It added: “If you have any actionable case against Mr. Ogundipe or any other journalist, you should follow the due process of the Law; you should go to court and obtain a warrant if you have any evidence of criminal conduct by the journalist that necessitates his arrest and detention and the freezing of his bank account, rather than arresting and clamping him into detention in a manner reminiscent of the dictatorial practices that characterized the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari as a military Head of State.”