MRA, FPS kick as Police arrest, detain broadcast journalist in Ilorin over corruption report
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on Friday condemned the arrest and detention of Ilorin-based broadcast journalists, Mr. Dare Akogun, by the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police Force in an effort to coerce him to retract an allegation of corruption he reportedly made against an official of the state government.
In a statement issued in Lagos by its director of programmes, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, to put an end to the incessant practice whereby politicians, government officials and other powerful individuals use the Police to shield themselves from scrutiny or criticism and to harass or intimidate journalists and media organizations reporting on their activities.
Mr. Akogun was invited by the Police by a letter dated October 7, 2022, which was delivered to him on October 12, 2022, to meet with the deputy commissioner of police in the criminal investigation department of the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Steve Yabanet, on October 13, 2022 at 11am.
The letter claimed that the office was investigating cases of inciting disturbance, injurious falsehood and criminal defamation against Mr. Akogun but said the invitation for him to report at the office was “just a fact-finding invitation.”
However, when Mr. Akogun honoured the invitation on October 13, he was asked by the deputy police commissioner to write a letter of apology to the chief press secretary to the state governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, who had petitioned the State Police Command asking it to investigate and prosecute Mr. Abdulrasheed Akogun and Mr. Dare Akogun for alleged criminal defamation against him.
The spokesman of the governor had claimed in the petition that the two men committed the offence through their WhatsApp posts on September 30, 2022 in which they accused him of facilitating the use of over N15 million in public funds to prosecute the last chairmanship election of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Without ascertaining the veracity or otherwise of the report, when Mr. Akogun arrived at the station, accompanied by his lawyer, Mr. Taiwo Olaitan, the deputy police commissioner asked him to write a letter of apology to the chief press secretary.
Mr. Akogun, however, declined on the ground that it would amount to admitting to the charge of injurious falsehood and criminal defamation, whereupon the deputy police commissioner ordered that he should be detained.
Describing the action of the deputy police Commissioner as unlawful, an abuse of power and an abuse of his office, Mr. Longe said: “It is embarrassing that the Police now consider it that it is their primary function to protect the reputation of political office holders, politicians and other powerful individuals and misusing their coercive powers to play this role. The Inspector-General of Police should immediately call his officers to order and advise them to desist from making themselves tools in the hands of the rich and powerful.
He called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Akogun, warning that if this was not done within 24 hours, MRA would take legal action to protect and enforce his fundamental rights and seek substantial damages for the oppressive violation of his rights.
FPS also laments
In the same vein, the Abuja chapter of the Fourth Estate Professional Society (FPS) condemned what it called the illegal arrest and detention of two Kwara-based Journalists, Dare Akogun of Sobi FM and Abdulrasheed Akogun, Publisher of Fresh Insight, an Online Newspaper.
Consequently, the body called for their immediate release, saying the act was a gross violation of their rights.
The body insisted that journalists in the line of duty as enshrined by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended must be shielded from crackdown in whatever guise by the States and its overzealous agents.
Osasona who decried the increase attack of journalists in Nigeria and the globe said, “It has now reached an alarming rate.”
He said, “For God sake, will these cultures of gagging the Media even in this era of Freedom of Information Act (FoI) ever stop?”
“It is surprising that in a modern democracy and when our European and American counterparts are already using the media space to not only set an agenda for their countries but also informed accurately, Nigeria choose to join the likes of Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Haiti, Cuba, West Bank and Gaza, Zimbabwe, Russia, Bangladesh, China, Sudan, Ghana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eriteria to mention but a few which has been adjudged worst places to be a journalist.
“Therefore, the authorities and their overzealous security agencies should know that the case of Agba Jalingo of Cross River Watch, Oloye Samuel of Taraba Truth and Facts Newspaper and Tordue Salem, a Vanguard reporter who was mysteriously killed by unknown men and others who have paid the supreme price is still fresh in our minds.”
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