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Attacks On The Media In October 2004

Council Chairman Orders Thugs To Beat Up And Strip Journalist Naked
On October 25, Mr. Owei Sikpi, of Weekly Star newspapers based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State was beaten up by thugs allegedly on the instructions of Mr. Steven Diver, chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Reports have it that the thugs, backed by mobile policemen, introduced themselves as operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). They abducted Mr. Sikpi and took him to No. 24, Woji Road in the new GRAł Port Harcourt where they beat him to a state of stupor. Thereafter, they stripped him naked and took several photographs of him, naked. They warned him never to write anything against the chairman threatening to publish the photographs taken of him naked if he did not stop writing and publishing such stories about Mr. Diver.

The battery followed a news story written by the journalist and published by his newspaper on September 30, 2004 alleging that the council boss had spent some money illegally and recklessly. The report was captioned N700 Million Fraud, Weep Not Southern Ijaws.

The chairman, apparently angered by the publication, reportedly confronted the journalist in Port Harcourt asking him to retract the publication within a week or face his wrath. He followed up this action by directing a legal firm, Egbulonu and Company to take up the matter. The law firm wrote to the journalist demanding the immediate retraction of the publication, which the firm said was libelous, and the sum of N50 million as damages.

In the letter dated September 29, 2004, the law firm warned the journalist of serious consequences of failing to meet the demands of the chairman within seven days.

In his reaction to the letter through a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Karibi Botoye, Mr. Sikpi denied committing the alleged libel and asked the complainant to give details of the crime. The chairman however failed to give details of the alleged libel until the October 25 battery.

Mr. Sikpi has petitioned the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner praying the police to investigate the action of the chairman and bring the culprits to justice.
 

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