The coalition for whistleblower protection and Press Freedom is calling on the federal government to release Jones Abiri, journalist who was arrested and have been detained for two years.
On July 16, 2016, Abiri, publisher of the Weekly Source, a newspaper based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital, was picked by agents of the Department of State Service (DSS) on the allegation that he is a leader of Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, a separatist group.
DSS had claimed that Abiri confessed to bombing oil pipelines, planning attacks on Abuja, and sending threat to international oil companies
Abiri has been detained without trial, and without access to his family, lawyers, and doctors.
The coalition, in a statement, said there is no justification for Abiri’s detention which they described as a flagrant violation of the constitution and an affront to the rule of law.
“As an organisation that has its mandate based on good governance, anti-corruption as well as an institution that fiercely fights for the protection of basic human rights of its citizens, whistleblowers and press freedom, we denounce the inadequate safety for journalists in Nigeria,” the coalition said.
“Too many journalists are imprisoned for the wrong reasons. Too many journalists are harassed for speaking out against certain government policies.”
The coalition said when the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) contacted the DSS in July and November 2016, the officers who answered the telephone calls said they were not authorised to speak on the matter.
“We don’t know where he is and we don’t know what he has been charged for,” Abdulwaheed Odusile, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), also said.
The coalition expressed its support for the rights enforcement suit filed on behalf of Abiri by Femi Falana, human rights lawyer.
The suit, filed on July 4, 2018, is praying the court to declare that the detention of the journalist in Abuja without access to his family members, friends and medical doctors since his arrest on July 21, 2016 “is illegal and unconstitutional” and claiming N200m in damages.
Falana is arguing that the detention “violates” the applicant’s fundamental rights” guaranteed by sections 34, 35 and 40 of the constitution as well as articles 11 and 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information, however, had said the current administration has not detained any journalist.