Atiku, Fayose, Amnesty, NUJ, Falana, others call for release of Samuel of Premium Times
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and many other groups have called for the immediate and unconditional release of PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, who was detained on Tuesday by the Nigerian Police over a report.
The police, through the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), arrested and detained Mr Ogundipe asking him to disclose his source for a story.
Apart from Mr Ogundipe, the Premium Times’ Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and education correspondent, Azeezat Adedigba, were also briefly detained and manhandled by the police at the SARS headquarters in Abuja.
The former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar condemned the arrest and detention of Samuel Ogundipe.
He made the condemnation via his official Twitter handle on Wednesday as he called for press freedom.
“The arrest and detention of @PremiumTimesng’s reporter by @PoliceNG for his refusal to disclose his source to a story raises serious concerns about the preservation of the confidentiality of sources.
“I call for the protection of press freedom as guaranteed by our constitution,” he tweeted.
The Ekiti Governor, while reacting to the development on his Twitter page, called for the immediate release of the journalist, urging all lovers of free speech to condemn the action.
Fayose tweeted: “The arrest and detention of Samuel Ogundipe of @PremiumTimesng by the police must be condemned by all lovers of freedom of speech and of the press.
“I join other well-meaning Nigerians to call for his immediate release of Samuel Ogundipe.”
Senator Shehu Sani
The Senator representing Kaduna Central at the National Assembly, Shehu Sani also reacted to the detention of Premium Times’ reporter, Samuel Ogundipe.
Senator Sani took to his official Twitter page @shehusani to call for the journalist’s release, stressing that the press is the fortress and the bastion of democracy.
His tweet reads, “I stand for Samuel Ogundipe and I call for his unconditional release.Free press is the fortress and the Bastion of [email protected] @AmnestyNigeria”
The international rights group, Amnesty International, has demanded the immediate release of Samuel Ogundipe, who was detained by police on Tuesday.
Mr Ogundipe was arrested and held by the police anti-robbery squad for refusing to disclose the source of a story published on PREMIUM TIMES.
The story contained a report by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to the acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the siege on the National Assembly by the State Security Service.
“The Nigerian police must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Samuel Ogundipe, who has been in unlawful police detention,” the Amnesty said in its statement.
“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,” it added.
MEdia Right Agenda
In a similar development, the Media Rights Agenda demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Ogundipe, describing his arrest as an abuse of the constitution.
The statement signed by the association’s programme director, Ayode Longe, warned the government to desist from intimidation of the press in the months ahead of the 2019 general election.
“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.
“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Samuel Ogundipe and an end to all forms of impunity against the media,” the NUJ said in a statement by its National President, Abdulwaheed Odusile, Tuesday Night.
“The NUJ is horrified by the constant harassment and molestation of journalists by the police and other agents of the State and requests that such should abate forthwith.
“It should be noted that confidentiality of sources is necessary for good journalism to flourish and journalists should not be coerced into revealing such sources.”
Coalition for Whistleblowers
In its reaction, the Coalition for Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom called on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to order the immediate release of Mr Ogundipe.
“The Coalition would want to stress that the law is clear on the illegality of the Police Force and other institutions of government to demand source disclosure from a journalist.
“Critical reporting is a statutory duty for journalists who on account of Section 22 of the 1999 constitution are enjoined to hold government accountable.”
The coalition said it was aware of the “The Freedom of Information Act, 2011 a federal law which protects confidentiality of sources and the Court of Appeal decision in Tony Momoh vs National Assembly which criminalises the demand of journalists sources by the Police or any other institution of government.”
“The Coalition stresses that as the Inspector General should respect the rule of law and the Constitution to uphold the mandate of the Police Force as an institution that fiercely fights for the protection of basic human rights of its citizens, whistleblowers and press freedom in Nigeria.”
In his reaction to the arrest, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said PREMIUM TIMES should not fail to institute an action in court against the Nigerian Police Force, regardless of whether Mr Ogundipe is subsequently released or kept in prison.
“Whether Samuel is released tonight or arraigned in court tomorrow by the police, PT should take advantage of this unlawful demand of the police to challenge criminal libel and other obnoxious anti press laws in the statute book.
“While declaring seditious publications illegal and unconstitutional in 1983 in Arthur Nwankwo v The State; the Court of Appeal held that any public officer who feels defamed or embarrassed by any publication should sue for libel and not use the machinery of the State to harass his political opponents. The court proceeded to urge Nigerians to resist any attempt to use any of the laws imported into the country by the erstwhile colonial rulers to repress us,” Mr Falana said.
Wole Soyinka Centre
In a similar reaction, the Centre Coordinator, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Motunrayo Alaka, said the police or any security operatives have no right to demand the source of a story from a journalist.
“It’s very wrong. The police have absolutely no right to demand the source of a reporter’s story. If the reporter reveals his source, how will he get another story? This is an attack on the media and it is totally unacceptable. We are practicing a democracy and such a development goes against the principle of democracy. This is yet another media attack by this government and it is totally not acceptable,” Mrs Alaka said.
In his reaction, the Chief Executive officer, Connected Development and founder of Follow the Money, Hamza Lawal, described the action of the security operatives as undemocratic and unfortunate.
“This is undemocratic, a deliberate attempt to undermine Nigeria’s democracy. It is quite sad and unfortunate that Nigeria’s highest law enforcement agency is being used for intimidating, rather than protecting the Nigerian people.”
In its reaction, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) asked the police to operate using internationally accepted best practices while carrying out its operations. It called for the unconditional release of Mr Ogundipe and other illegally detained suspects.
“NANS calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Ogundipe arrested by the IGP monitoring unit and SARS and the unfreezing of his accounts and also the release of other illegally detained persons.
“We do not support the continued harassment, illegal arrest and detention of members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, students and Nigerians at large by security agents especially SARS,” Bamidele Danielson, NANS President said in a statement.
The International Press Centre (IPC), says it is outraged by the detention of Premium Times reporter, Samuel Ogundipe as well as the Editor-In-chief, Musikilu Mojeed and the Education Reporter, Azeezat Adedigba on Tuesday.
Similarly, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned the arrests
Its Director, Prof Ishaq Akintola, in a statement condemned the attempt to coerce journalists performing their legitimate duties.
It read: “The police know the rules. The Fourth Estate of the Realm deserves a conducive atmosphere to carry out its daily routine of informing and educating the people about government’s activities.
“The impression must not be created that we are in a police state. A Gestapo-style intimidation of journalists stifles freedom of expression.
“We therefore demand the immediate release of Samuel Ogundipe and an apology for the manhandling of the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times”.
The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) has also called for the immediate release of the Reporter.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Olumide Iyanda, GOCOP faulted the arrest and embarrassment that was lashed out on the newspaper Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and Education Reporter, Azeezat Adedigba, both of who have been released from the detention of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
Noting with shock that the Police action was carried out on the day Acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered the restructuring of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the guild aligned with several groups and individuals to accuse President Muhammadu Buhari Government of gross abuse of citizens’ rights.