CPJ berates Nigerian police over arrest of five Peoples Gazette journalists

THE Committee to Protect Journalists, (CPJ) has called on the Nigerian authorities to desist from harassing employees of the Peoples Gazette and reform the country’s laws to decriminalise defamation.

This follows the arrest and detention of Peoples Gazette assistant managing editor John Adenekan. The news website’s managing editor, Samuel Ogundipe, disclosed Adenekan’s arrest on Friday.

After detaining Adenekan, the police returned to the office 30 minutes later and arrested four other employees.

They include reporters Ameedat Adeyemi and Sammy Ogbu, and administrative staff members Grace Oke and Justina Tayani.

The police released Adeyemi, Ogbu and Tayani shortly after, and released Adenekan and Oke on bail Friday evening, according to Peoples Gazette lawyer Ken Eluma Asogwa.

The arrests were related to a criminal defamation complaint filed by former Nigerian army chief Tukur Buratai over a Peoples Gazette report published on June 23 about a law enforcement operation

Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, said the arrest is an affront on the freedom of the press in Nigeria.

“The arrest of five Peoples Gazette staff members over a report published by their outlet is a gross overreaction and a direct attack on freedom of the press in Nigeria. Nigerian authorities should cease harassing and intimidating the outlet and decriminalize defamation nationwide.

“There is no reason for Nigerian police to arrest journalists over their reporting. It’s something that happens far too often in the country, and authorities should act swiftly to reverse this trend,” she said.

Officers had taken all five detainees to a police station in Utako, a neighborhood in Abuja, after their arrests.

Officers initially said Adenekan and Oke would be held until Ogundipe and Adefemola Akintade, author of the June 23 report, appeared at the station.



    However, they were released Friday evening. Asogwa said Buratai’s complaint specifically accused Ogundipe and Akintade of defaming him.

    The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Abuja chapter secretary acted as surety for Adenekan and Oke’s bail.

    CPJ has previously reported how access to the Peoples Gazette website was blocked in Nigeria and how intelligence agents harassed the new website’s staff.

    In 2017, Nigerian police arrested Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of the news website Premium Times, and Evelyn Okakwu, a Premium Times reporter who now works as a CPJ correspondent, over a defamation complaint by Buratai.

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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