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Judge locks up journalists over court photos taken ‘without authorisation’

Judge locks up journalists over court photos taken ‘without authorisation’
June 07
19:16 2022

Six journalists were locked up at a federal capital territory (FCT) high court in Abuja on Tuesday.

The journalists, who are accredited judiciary correspondents, were locked up in the court against their will for over two hours on the order of Chizoba Orji, judge of the court.

Trouble started shortly after the judge stood down a matter and entered her chambers to prepare a ruling.

As the court proceedings were paused, Wunmi Obabori, a reporter with the Africa Independent Television (AIT), sought to take pictures and video footage for her story, but a female registrar of the court stopped her, saying journalists have no right to cover the court.

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Efforts by the reporter to explain that journalists could take cut-aways — short videos and pictures — once the court is not in session yielded no result, as the court official immediately summoned a police officer attached to the judge to arrest the reporter.

Gusar Dauda, a policeman who claimed that he had the authority of the judge, swiftly locked the main gate to the courtroom with a chain, pulled his gun and ordered all the journalists to surrender their phones.

Despite the intervention of lawyers and litigants, the police officer and court officials stood their ground that no journalist would leave the courtroom without complying with the order.

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After a scuffle that lasted over one hour, the judge re-entered the courtroom and summoned the AIT reporter to step forward.

“Why were you taking pictures and videos in my court? Who gave you the permission to do that?” she fumed.

“My lord, I am an accredited judiciary reporter. It is a normal practice for us to take pictures and videos when the court is not sitting, even up to the supreme court,” Obabori responded.

“You don’t have such right! If there is such permission, it must be in writing. Who gave you the permission? Show me the authorisation?” the judge said.

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At that point, other journalists in the courtroom stood up and took turns to identify themselves.

“I don’t want to hear from any of you. Now, where is the device you used to take the pictures and videos?” the judge queried the AIT reporter.

Orji, thereafter, ordered her orderly to delete all the pictures and videos on the phone, after which she told the court official to unlock the gate and walk all the journalists out of the courtroom.

Other reporters who were ordered out are Godwin Tsa of The Sun newspaper, Ikechukwu Nnochiri of Vanguard, Austin Okezie of Raypower FM, Kunle Olasanmi of Leadership, and  Charles Ozoemena.

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