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‘Attack on press freedom’ — IPI, NGE, NUJ condemn detention of FirstNews editor

The International Press Institute (IPI), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have condemned the detention of Segun Olatunji, editor of FirstNews.

BACKGROUND

Olatunji was abducted on March 15 by some armed men in his home in Iyana Odo, Abule Egba area of Lagos.

Depite numerous calls for his release, the whereabouts of the editor were not known for about two weeks after he was abducted.

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On Wednesday, the IPI Nigeria said the journalist was in the custody of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The editor was eventually released on Thursday in Abuja after 13 days in detention.

Speaking at a joint press conference organised by the IPI, NGE and NUJ on Thursday in Abuja, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, secretary of the NGE, on behalf of the groups, said the detention of the FirstNews editor is “alien to Nigeria’s democratic space”.

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He said Olatunji’s detention was “an attack on press freedom”.

“The IPI, the NGE and the NUJ called this joint press conference to update members of the public on the ordeal of our colleague – the Editor of FirstNews, Segun Olatunji, who armed people we earlier thought were non-state actors abducted from his home in Lagos on March 15,” Uwugiaren said.

“For us, this vicious, uncivilized, unlawful and criminal action of the DIA is unacceptable. The action is alien to Nigeria’s democratic space.

“It is now clear that there are some officers in our military who are still finding it difficult to subject themselves to civil authority 24 years after our country returned to representative governance.

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“We do not think this kind of attitude should be condoned by President Bola Tinubu, particularly, and Nigerians, in general.

“If officers in a military institution like DIA could hack a journalist’s telephone, mishandle his wife, abduct him, detain him secretly for 12 days and disobey senior officials of the federal government, then our democracy cannot be said to be safe.”

The groups also called on President Bola Tinubu to ensure that the military officers involved in Olatunji’s arrest are punished for bad behaviour.

“Although our colleague has now been released, we are calling on President Tinubu to ensure that these officers are punished for their bad behaviour,” Uwugiaren added.

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“By all standards, the actions of the DIA, General Musa and Major General Undiandeye are against the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and other international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory – which forbid the detention of any citizen or resident beyond 48 hours, except with a valid court order.

“More so, the DIA’s action is a direct attack on press freedom. One of the core missions of the free press is to serve as a watchdog on power.

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“The press, as we all know, is the connection between the people and the government. If the press is not allowed to carry out its social and constitutional responsibilities but instead obligated to power, it simply serves as an extension of power.

“Without freedom of the press, our democracy is endangered. In the case of corruption, a free press is critical to exposing abuses of power. For sure, the media is not above the law, but in a democracy, the only way to determine wrong or right is through the legal process.

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“This is not the end of this matter. The Nigerian media community shall consult further in the next few days on the actions to take against the CDS, the CDI, and the military regarding this matter.”

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