1 April 2019

West Africa: Jone Abiri Arrested By Suspected SSS Operatives

press release

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the arrest of journalist, Jones Abiri, by unidentified persons in Yenagao, Bayelsa State.

Local media reports said Mr. Abiri, the publisher of Weekly Source Newspaper, was subdued at gunpoint and dragged away by four armed men suspected to be operatives of the State Security Services (SSS) on March 30, 2019.

Jones Abiri was in the company of some colleagues at his office in Yenagoa when his assailants appeared. The armed men, who are reported to have arrived in a white Hilux van and black Prado SUV at about 4:30 p.m, dragged the journalist into one of the vehicles and drove away. His whereabouts are still unknown.

"Two armed men came out of the cars and without identifying themselves, they said "you are under arrest" and started dragging him. They threatened to shoot anybody that tries to stop them," the Premium Times quoted one eyewitness as saying.

It is the second time Jones Abiri has been arrested in less than three years. He was detained without trial until August 15, 2018, after he was arrested in August 2016 on terrorism charges relating to his reports about the Boko Haram insurgency. A month after his release, (September 13, 2019), a High Court in Abuja ordered the state to pay the journalist 10 million Naira (about US$27,500) in damages. The ruling followed a suit filed by Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, on July 3, 2018, who was demanding a 200 million Naira (about $US 554,700) in damages for the journalist.

MFWA is deeply alarmed at the arrest of Abiri, especially the obscure circumstances surrounding it. We urge the authorities to reveal where the journalist is being kept and to allow him access to his lawyers and family. We also call on the Federal government and the Bayelsa State authorities to ensure that he is safe.

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