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Attacks On The Media In January 2004

SSS Compel Bureau Chief To Disclose Source
Mr. Tony Eluemunor, the Abuja Bureau Chief of Daily Independent newspaper was on January 12 interrogated by a team of State Security Service (SSS) officials in Abuja who tried to force him to disclose the source of the story published in the January 8 edition of the tabloid. The said story titled How Ngige’s Arrest Was Hatched, Why It Failed, linked the Presidency to a plot to unseat the Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige.

Mr. Eluemunor was interrogated for about one and half hours in connection with the said story. SSS officials had made repeated visits to the Abuja offices of Daily Independent from January 9 asking for Eluemunor who was then out of town. On each occasion, they left instructions that he should report to the director of special duties at SSS headquarters immediately he returned to Abuja.

When he got the message on his return, Eluemunor went to SSS headquarters on Aso Drive accompanied by Mr. Gerald Ogekeh, a legal counsel from Gani Fawehinmi Chambers.

At the SSS office, the officials, after the initial formalities, refused his lawyer entry into the interrogation room insisting that he would be interrogated alone. He was thereafter questioned by a team headed by the director of special duties about the source of his story and repeatedly asked to reveal his source but Eluemunor also consistently refused to disclose the source insisting that the ethics of his profession forbid him from revealing his sources.

Eluemunor disclosed that an unidentified officer alleged that the story had caused some confusion since its publication and wondered why it was not retracted in a subsequent edition of the newspaper to which Eluemunor answered that the Presidency’s reaction to the story was published the following day, in keeping with Daily Independent’s belief in publishing the other side of the story and in respect of the right to reply.

He was let go at 5.00pm and asked to report back to the SSS headquarters at 1.00pm on January 13.

Two Journalists Arrested
Two journalists with Mustardseed Communications, Publishers of two evening tabloids: Midweek Scoop and Weekend News, Timothy Okojie Ave and Emeka Osuagwu were arrested in the morning of January 14 by men believed to be from the State Security Service (SSS).

The News Editor of Mustardseed Communications, Mr Victor Iyalla, disclosed in statement that the two journalists were arrested by four plainclothes men and a woman who stormed the premises at Akowonjo Road, Egbeda Lagos, and thoroughly ransacked the place. They claimed they were searching for anti-government materials.

Mr. Iyalla revealed that the security men who identified themselves as SSS officials from Shangisha arrived its office at about 10.30am vandalized and confiscated several computers and computer accessories and went away with several copies of various editions of their publications.

Security Men Chase Out and Threaten to Shoot Journalists

Journalists were on January 15 chased out of the Lokoja residence of the late Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Raphael Ige when they went there to seek for more information on his death.

Gun-totting police men stationed at the residence prevented journalists from entering into the building to obtain information. One of the police men went as far as threatening to shoot the journalists if they didn’t leave the premises. He said: “If in the next two seconds you people don’t disappear, I will just fire and kill you so that you can go and interview oga in heaven.”

Despite the threat, the journalists were undaunted in their desire to get further information. The police man accused the journalists of causing so much problems for the late Ige while he was alive and now they did not want the man to rest even in death. He further threatened: “You better go away now before I lose my temper and shoot you.”

The policeman went ahead to cock his gun in preparation to shoot when a lady identified as the late Ige’s younger sister intervened. The unidentified lady later persuaded the journalists to leave the premises for their own safety.

The late Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Raphael Ige came into limelight in July 2003 when he led a team of policemen to abduct Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State on the excuse that Ngige had resigned. The saga cost Ige his job before he eventually died on January 13.

Theartre Artistes Batter Editor
Mr Lanre Dodo-Balogun, Editor of Iriri-Aye Alaroye, a Yoruba magazine was attacked on January 25 by some Yoruba artistes over a lead story published by the magazine. Mr Dodo-Balogun was at the Radio-Vision Complex, housing LTV8 and Radio Lagos/Eko FM in Agidingbi to promote the current edition of his magazine when the actors and actresses pounced on him.

The artistes numbering about 30 led by Saheed Balogun and Mr Mustapha Bakare, a.k.a. Otolo with Babatunde Omidina, Gbenga Adewusi, Ronke Ojo, Femi Adelakun, Kola Olatunde, and Fathia Balogun among others allegedly joined hands to beat him. One of the artistes, Gbenga Adewusi allegedly insisted that the editor be made a scapegoat for other journalists to learn from. Other artistes also praised them for teaching the editor the lesson of his life.

Mr. Dodo-Balogun who was badly beaten was taken to the General Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos State where he received treatment.

OSRC Suspends Nine Journalists Indefinitely
Media independence and editorial plurality suffered a serious setback in Nigeria in January with the indefinite suspension of nine senior journalists of the Ondo State Radiovision Corporation (OSRC) Akure.

Those suspended include the director of news, Seinde Omokoba; his deputy, Sanya Adeleye; Taiwo Fagbuyi, Akinwale Oshodi, Franklin Olaleye and Daisi Ajayi. Also affected were Remi Olagookun, Daisi Ifaleyimu and Bola Akinrunjomu.

The management, in letters signed by chairman of the board of directors of the corporation, Mr. Clement Adebambo, accused the journalist of dereliction of duty.

Investigations however revealed that the workers were suspended for prominently featuring pro-labour reports during the aborted January 21 strike ordered by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to protest the imposition of fuel tax on petroleum products prices.

Mr. Akiwnwale Oshodi, one of those affected, in a telephone interview confirmed that they were suspended for giving prominence to the aborted strike which the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) planned for January 21.

Mr. Oshodi alleged in the interview that the incident was orchestrated by the press secretary to the state governor, Mr. Soji Ala, whom he accused of seeking to influence government to appoint him as the new head of the corporation when he would have ceased to to be press secretary. He alleged that Mr. Ala had in November 2003 written to Mr. Adebambo urging him to dispense with the services of some of them whom he perceives as possible antagonists if he eventually become the head of the corporation. But Mr. Adebambo could not carry out Mr. Ala’s bidding in the absence of any credible reason for such an action.

Governor Olusegun Agagu was said to be furious about the reports on the aborted strike which made him to summon the Information Commissioner, Mrs. Tola Aworh, who in turn summoned the chairman of the corporation, Clement Adebambo to the meeting.

The commissioner thereafter proceeded to the Orita-Obele station of the corporation, where she ordered that all the editorial staff on duty be disciplined.

Policemen Beat Up Journalist At Tribunal Premises
Mr. Mustapha Mohammed, ThisDay newspaper Correspondent for Borno State was in January denied access to the venue of the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Maiduguri, the Borno State Capital where he had gone to cover the day’s proceedings. He was also beaten up by the policemen even while pleading with them to allow him into the venue. He sustained injuries for which received medical treatment.

The policemen claimed they were acting on the instructions of the state police commissioner, Bashir Azeez to deny journalists access to the Tribunal.

Sequel to this treatment, the correspondents’ chapel of the NUJ in Borno State boycotted the activities of police in the State. The chapel’s decision was contained in a statement by its secretary, Fidelis Ma-Leva which condemned the police action, describing it as a negation of the new spirit of partnership between the police and civil societies being preached by the inspector general of police.
 

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