IPI demands release of FIJ journalist, warns against ‘assault on press freedom’

Friday Ajagunna
Friday Ajagunna
Daniel Ojukwu

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) have demanded the release of Daniel Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation of Investigative Journalism (FIJ).

On May 3, the management of FIJ said Ojukwu went missing on May 1, while his contact numbers were unreachable as family and friends struggled to reach him.

FIJ said a track of Ojukwu’s devices revealed his last active location to be in Isheri Olofin, Alimosho LGA, noting that the area was where the journalist was arrested by the police.

The foundation revealed that Ojukwu’s family discovered he was being held by the intelligence response team (IRT) of the inspector-general of police (IGP) at the state criminal investigation department (SCID), Panti area of Lagos.

The newspaper claimed that the journalist is being held for the alleged violation of the 2015 Cybercrime Act.

Reacting to the development in a statement on Saturday, Musikilu Mojeed, president of the IPI Nigeria, and Tobi Soniyi, legal adviser of the IPI advocacy committee, lamented that the administration of President Bola Tinubu has encouraged repression of freedom of the press.

“At at the time when the world is celebrating the freedom of the press, the action of the Nigeria Police Force speaks volumes about the attitude and commitment of law enforcement agencies in Nigeria to the freedom of the press.

“Some weeks ago, the Nigerian military abducted a journalist, Mr. Segun Olatunji, in a Gestapo manner in Lagos and flew him to Abuja under humiliating conditions in apparent violation of his rights to dignity and expression.

With the two incidents cited above, a pattern has ermeged that points to the fact that the administration of President Bola Tinubu does not only condone repression of freedom of the press but also encourages it, in contradiction of promises made during the president’s inaugural speech that his administration would uphold fundamental human rights,” the statement reads.

The IPI Nigeria asked the inspector-general of police to order the immediate release of the detained journalist.

It also called on Tinubu to sanction the IGP over “his failure to lead by example, noting that “nobody is above the law.”

The institute added that the IGP’s name would be included in IPI Nigeria’s book of infamy and would be branded as an enemy of the media and journalists.

In a statement issued on behalf of CWPPF, Busola Ajibola, deputy director of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), described Ojukwu’s arrest and detention as an “assault on press freedom and also a violation of his fundamental human rights.”

The coalition called on the police to ensure an immediate release of Ojukwu and follow legal procedures to engage him.

“CWPPF condemns the arrest and continued detention of Mr. Ojukwu Daniel. Arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists remain unacceptable as they negate the basic principles of democracy,” the statement reads.

“The arrest and continued detention of Mr. Ojukwu, not only a violation of his fundamental human rights but also an assault on press freedom.

“We also call on the Inspector General of Police to ensure that the Cybercrime Act 2015 ceases to be a weapon used in the harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists and media workers.

“We make this call based on past instances where the cybercrime law has been used to criminalise journalism, harass journalists, and detain them. We reiterate that such intimidation constitutes an attack on press freedom and the right of the people to information.

“The Nigerian Police in this instance must therefore avoid using the Cybercrimes Act to suppress investigative journalism aimed at entrenching a transparent and accountable system. Journalism plays a critical role in democracy, and such actions are bound to undermine its core principles.”


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