Coalition condemns detention, harassment of journalists in Kwara

THE Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) on Tuesday, February 13, condemned the arbitrary detention and harassment of two journalists by the Kwara State Police Command.

The journalists, Salihu Ayatullahi, Editor-in-Chief and Adisa-Jaji Azeez, Managing Editor of Informant247, were detained on February 6 over reports published on November 10, 2023, and February 1, 2024, regarding alleged corruption in Kwara State Polytechnic.

The report published by the media platform highlighted financial mismanagement at the state polytechnic, the rector’s false claims about the institution’s financial status, and the commissioning of shoddy and uncompleted projects.

Meanwhile, the journalists were subsequently dragged before magistrate Monisola Kamson on the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cyberstalking and injurious falsehood contrary to sections 27(1) B, 24(1)(B) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015 and section 393 of the Penal Code.

However, they were granted bail of N250,000 each, and two sureties residing within the court’s jurisdiction. The magistrate adjourned the case till February 13.

Reacting to the development, the coalition, in a statement signed by the Centre for Journalism and Development deputy director, Busola Ajibola, extended its support to Informant247 and also condemned the incessant harassment of Nigerian journalists by the Nigerian Police Force.

It urged the Kwara State Police Command to drop all charges against the accused and allow journalists to work without fear of reprisal.






     

     

    “The court must ensure that Salihu Ayatullahi and Adisa-Jaji Azeez receive a fair trial in accordance with international standards of justice. In view of this, this is a clear case of Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) aimed at frustrating the reporting process. 

    “We urge the court to protect the freedom and independence of the press, especially when journalists have supported their report with evidential facts, as mandated by the accountability role vested in them by the Constitution. Any legal proceedings against them should be transparent, impartial, and free from interference,” the press statement added.

    While noting that the management of Informant247 stated that they would proceed with publishing the third leg of the report in the coming days, the coalition urged the Police to refrain from any further harassment of journalists to suppress the press. 

    “It is the inherent right of the people to access information, and any attempt to obstruct this right constitutes a blatant violation of fundamental human rights in Nigeria. The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom remains committed to defending press freedom and advocating for the rights of journalists in Nigeria,” the statement added.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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