The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) strongly condemns today’s raid of online newspaper, Peoples Gazette’s office in Abuja and the subsequent arrest of five journalists by armed policemen.
According to news reports, the policemen forcefully entered the media office and demanded to see managing editor, Samuel Ogundipe and a reporter Adefemola Akintade over a story it published on June 23, 2022, detailing how anti-graft agency, ICPC, raided a property allegedly belonging to a former Chief of Army Staff and current Ambassador to Benin Republic, retired General Tukur Buratai, where it recovered cash and luxury items.
The policemen then arrested five members of staff, John Adenekan, assistant managing editor, Ameedat Adeyemi, Grace Oke, Sammy Ogbu and Justina Tayani, and detained them at the police station.
OPAN in a statement by its President, Austyn Ogannah and General Secretary, Daniel Elombah, notes that the ICPC had confirmed that it executed an operation at the building as reported by Peoples Gazette, but General Buratai thereafter alleged that the story defamed his reputation and complained to the Police at the Utako Police Station in Abuja.
“State security services cannot continue this unlawful and crude practice of raiding media houses in a bid to intimidate the press. Today’s raid of the Peoples Gazette’s office and subsequent arrest of journalists reminds us of the draconian era of military rule, especially during the reign of General Muhammadu Buhari between 1983 and 1985”, OPAN stated.
“If retired General Buratai feels he was defamed by the report, the lawful and correct approach would be to sue the news outfit for libel in a court of law. The days of using state security agencies to harass and intimidate the press and journalists are over. This desecration of people’s rights cannot be tolerated in a democracy any longer,” OPAN further warned.
OPAN therefore calls for the immediate release of the journalists and demands an unreserved apology from the police and the Nigerian government over this incident.