On Wednesday, Jones Abiri, a journalist and publisher of Bayelsa-based Weekly Source newspaper detained illegally for two years by the Department of the Secret Service (DSS) without arraignment was released. Abiri’s release brought a sigh of relief for proponents of press freedom; but it was short-lived due to the Nigeria Police’s arrest of Samuel Ogundipe, a journalist with online news medium, Premium Times. Ogundipe was allegedly arrested for publishing the Inspector General of Police’s interim report on the invasion of the National Assembly last week Tuesday by officials of the DSS.
The police secretly arraigned Ogundipe without providing him access to his lawyers. He was later detained for not revealing the source of the story, a practice unethical for journalists. His detention has elicited reactions and condemnations from both local and international activists while a social media campaign for his release has been intensified since Tuesday. On Thursday, August 16, 2018, activists stormed the Force Headquarters in Abuja but got no response from the police hierarchy.
The police also froze Ogundipe’s personal accounts, all in a bid to bully him into submission. This military-like tactic is absolutely wrong and seeing that it happened on the same day the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo ordered an immediate overhaul of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) shows that the police is in no way ready to heed to the presidential directive.
The continuous clampdown and censoring of the media is problematic and could prove to be this administration’s Achilles’ heel.
It’s time for the police to #FreeSamuelOgundipe.