The Nigeria National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI), the global platform for a free press, has decried the recent travails of the four journalists: Mrs Chinyere Fred –Adegbulugbe, Mr Chuks Ohuegbe, Mr Tony Amokeodo and Mr Chibuzoh Ukaibe who work with the LEADERSHIP Newspapers in Nigeria.
The IPI made this comment in a statement signed by its chairman, Mr Kabiru Yusuf, and the secretary, Mr Raheem Adedoyin, and made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday.
The group said that although the police had released the journalists after two unwarranted and agonizing days in detention, it insisted that there was nothing to celebrate in their release on the ground that they ought not to have been detained in the first instance.
According to the statement, “Detaining journalists while investigating their alleged professional infractions is a throw-back to the best-forgotten dark days of dictatorial regimes. The courts, not detention centres, are the proper place to take alleged offenders.
IPI also frowned at the journalists’ conditional release, where they are made to continue to report to the police, describing it as illegal and unacceptable as the police cannot usurp the powers of the courts.
IPI warned against resort to arbitrariness in dealing with complaints against the press, saying that “a threat to the press is a threat to our democracy.”
Police action in order –Abati
But spokesman to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Reuben Abati, has claimed that the Nigeria police force was only carrying out its constitutional duties over the detention of the journalists.
In a statement issued yesterday and entitled: “Leadership Newspaper, Media Responsibility and the Police,” he said the Police had not done anything outside the law.
“The trite rule is that nobody is above the laws of the land. The Leadership Newspaper should see this as an opportunity to cooperate with the police as required by the laws of the land,” he said.
“It is also within the powers of the police to invite persons for questioning and to conduct investigations, which are what they have done so far in the LEADERSHIP case. Or are the editors of the leadership newspaper insisting that they are above the laws of the land?” he queried.
He went on to express the administration’s commitment to press freedom, pointing at the president signing of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI). “It will be disingenuous to suggest that there is a clampdown of any sort or an attempt to stifle the press,” he asserted.
--------Ekele Peter, Leadership, April 11, 2013