CWPPF condemns detention of ICIR’s news editor

THE Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the detention of a journalist Marcus Fatunmole who works as the News Editor at the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

This was contained in a statement signed by Deputy Director, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Busola Ajibola, on behalf of the coalition on Tuesday, December 5.

Fatunmole was detained by security operatives on Monday, December 4, while investigating a mass transportation scheme in Abuja.

“Expressing deep concern over the harassment faced by Mr Fatunmole while performing his duties at the Eagle Square car park, FCT Abuja, the CWPPF asserts that Mr Fatunmole’s investigative reporting on controversial buses circulating on social media, claimed to be part of an FCT mass transportation scheme, was unjustly interrupted by security operatives.

“Security operatives, including a Police officer, Abuja Property Development Company (APDC),” and a staff of 360 TFA including Ibukun Akindele, unlawfully detained him, obstructing his right to freely exercise his duties as a journalist,the statement read.

Following a viral video of some buses said to be a part of the Federal Capital Territory  (FCT) mass transportation scheme, Fatunmole visited the Eagles’ Square to investigate allegations made in the video.

Security operatives, including a Police officer, Abuja Property Development Company (APDC), and private security personnel Ibukun Akindele, accosted Fatunmole and detained him.

Although Fatunmole presented a valid identity card identifying him as The ICIR News Editor, he was detained for six hours, between 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m., at the Eagle square security output before eventually taken to the Central Police Station, Federal Secretariat in Abuja.

Officials of Abuja Property Development Company (APDC) demanded to seize Fatunmole’s phone while also demanding for access to his google account.

“We note that the detainment and harassment of Mr Fatunmole was unjust, unlawful and failed to comply with legal processes. There was no warrant of arrest, he committed no crime and yet was detained and subjected to long hours of interrogation by the Police on the instruction of Ms Ibukun Akindele”, the statement by CWPPF read.

Akindele claims to 360 TFA legal adviser.

The coalition called for an investigation by the Nigerian Police Force, sensitisation of security operatives on the role of journalists in society and urged The ICIR to take legal steps while seeking redress for the harassment against Fatunmole.

“Upon discovering that Ibukun Akindele, the TFA private security officer involved, is also a lawyer, the Coalition calls on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to thoroughly investigate the matter and take appropriate actions against her for colluding with the Police in violating the journalist’s rights,” the statement read.

Editor at The ICIR Victoria Bamas, who also spoke on the issue, condemned the harassment of journalists in Nigeria.

“This is an instance of the daily hassle journalists practising in Nigeria go through in the discharge of their work. At every level, we face harassment and intimidation from both official and nonofficial forces. There is a need for mass sensitization of the public on the work and role of journalists, as well as massive training and sensitisation for the different cadres of security agents,” she said.

Harassment, intimidation and attacks have remained a source of concern for journalists in Nigeria and many other countries.

Four ICIR journalists harassed in 2023

At least four staff members of The ICIR have been attacked by both state and non-state actors in 2023.

Officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) attacked Mustapha Usman, a reporter with The ICIR, and confiscated his Identity Card at Zone 7, Wuse.

Usman was beaten up by the FRSC officials while trying to record a video of them forcefully grabbing the steering wheel from a female driver and deflating her car tyres afterwards.

    In April, a man in military uniform and a woman, who identified themselves as soldiers of the Nigerian Army, led a mob action against a journalist with The ICIR, Sinafi Omanga.

    During the general elections held on February 25, The ICIR Executive Director Dayo Aiyetan was attacked while recording a case of electoral violence in the Gwagwalada area of the FCT.

    He was beaten and disposed of his phone, car key, purse and a pouch containing his debit cards, Nigeria and US driver’s licenses, among other items, some of which he recovered following the intervention of a Divisional Police Officer in Gwagwalada, Hamza Sadiq.

    Omanga had noticed a case of jungle justice against two men accused of stealing a mobile phone on Mombassa street in Zone 5, Wuse and picked up his device to record the incident when they pounced on him.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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