THE Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has on Wednesday, September 5, condemned the arrest and continuous detention of a Nigerian journalist and Editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Damilola Ayeni, by the Beninese Police.
Ayeni was arrested on August 31 while on a second part of his Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report when the authorities of the Benin Republic arrested him.
The FIJ editor is currently being detained at the Commisseriat Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou, Republic of Benin, by the Beninese police.
Confirming the arrest, FIJ, in a report stated that it received a distress text from Ayeni on Thursday, August 31, which was swiftly deleted a few moments after it was delivered through one of its communication channels. The message read, “I have been apprehended.”
Meanwhile, Ayeni subsequently told his colleagues on a phone call that he was briefly held because the authorities stated that there were security concerns in the area.
FIJ, however, said it learnt that the Beninese police frequently employ the strategy of releasing and then re-arresting individuals as a means to keep them detained at the station without notifying their friends and family.
“FIJ subsequently lost touch with him until the early hours of Tuesday morning when a man who identified himself as the ‘Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin’ said that Ayeni was being held at Commisseria Central, Parakou Police Station,” the report stated.
Reacting to this, the Coalition in a statement on Wednesday, September 6, said Ayeni’s arrest violates internationally recognised human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.
“This act by the Beninese police has raised serious concerns about the state of press freedom and human rights in Benin Republic, as well as the broader implications for journalists working across the region.
While condemning his arrest, the organisation called on the Government of the Republic of Benin and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to take immediate action to rectify this situation.
It also charged the two governments to uphold the principles of justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
“We stand united in demanding the immediate release of Mr Ayeni and the dropping of all unfounded charges. Diplomatic efforts, media campaigns, and advocacy will continue until justice is served.
In these trying times, it is crucial for governments around the world to protect the fundamental rights of journalists and ensure they can carry out their vital work without fear of persecution,” the statement added.