NGE President, Mr. Femi Adesina
•NGE condemns detention
CNPP alleges breach of freedom of press
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Four journalists with the Leadership Newspapers were Monday detained at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
The journalists, Mrs. Chinyere Fred-Adebulugbe, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, Mr. Chibuzor Ukaibe, and Mr. Chuks Ohuegbe, had reported at the Force Headquarters Monday morning to honour an invitation by the police.
As at the time of filing this report, it was reported that Ohuegbe and Fred-Adebulugbe had been released.
Narrating their ordeal, Fred-Adegbulugbe, who led the journalists to the Force Headquarters, said: “After the journalists, finished writing their statements, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Peter Gana, suddenly excused himself on a call from the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar.
“We were later told that we would not be allowed to leave except we produced the source of the story. It was clear that this was not the call of the police. It is from President Goodluck Jonathan.
“We told them that it would be unethical to disclose our source and asked them to charge us to court, if they wanted. They said they wanted to have the document. We said the bromide had been published and wondered why they were making such a fuss, since they said the document was a work of fiction.
“The have made it clear that we would not be released except we give them the document. We can’t get out. I was escorted to use the toilet after begging.”
The newspaper said the detention was a calculated and brazen affront on press freedom, adding that it was surprised that an elected government could come so low.
It said it stood by its story and would neither be cowed nor intimidated by the strong-arm tactics of President Jonathan or his spokesmen.
“We demand the unconditional and immediate release of our journalists. President Jonathan and his handlers need to tell Nigerians and the civilised world why they have suddenly moved from describing the document as “fiction,” to a do-or-die obsession with knowing the source; they need to tell Nigerians most of who now live in mortal fear of their personal safety and security, if clamping down on the press has now become a priority sport.
“On our part, we wish to restate our resolve to continue to hold the government to account as enshrined in chapter 22 of the constitution and to remain resolute in championing the course of press freedom and the right of the people to know.
“We stand by our story and will neither be cowed nor intimidated by the strong-arm tactics of President Jonathan nor by the puerile attempts by his spokesmen – Doyin Okupe and Dr. Reuben Abati – to tarnish our report.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has condemned in strong term, the detention of the journalists.
In a statement personally signed by its national president, Mr. Femi Adesina, the NGE said it received with deep disturbance and grave consternation news of the detention of the said journalists.
According to the Guild, “We, therefore, demand that the journalists be released, as they will in no way stand in the path of dutiful investigation by the security agencies.”
Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has accused the Nigerian Police of harassment, and intimidation of journalists from Leadership Newspapers over the publication of the bromide of the presidential directive.
A statement issued Monday by CNPP’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, raised concern over a possible return to the dark ages of constitutional breaches and human rights abuses by government.
“CNPP wishes to alert the nation of the return of the dark ages as evidenced by the breach of the constitution by the Nigeria Police Force,” it stated.
The authorities of the Nigerian Police had invited three journalists from the Leadership Newspapers for questioning over the publication of an alleged directive targeting the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed to have emanated from the presidency.
“In this instance the harassment and intimidation of journalists from Leadership Newspapers over the publication of the bromide of the presidential directive, CNPP is of the considered view that the 1999 Constitution has adequately and sufficiently guaranteed the freedom of
the press and therefore the frontiers of freedom shall not be breached by any organ of the state, person or group of persons.
“We are committed to the protection and guidance of freedom guaranteed by our constitution, UN Declaration of Human Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act 2004). For Freedom has remained one of the few dividends of democracy Nigerians enjoy; in the midst of misgovernance and pervasive corruption.”
The party said the Nigeria Police Force should have allowed the presidency to explore the court option provided by law; more so when the presidency has denied the said publication.
“In sum, we condemn an attempt by the Nigeria Police Force or indeed any other agency of the state to jeopardise our hard earned freedom of the press,” he said.