Presidency’s Story:Police Grill, Detain 4 Leadership Newspaper’s Journalists

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  • As Editors Fault Detention, Call For Their Release 

The police, Monday, detained four journalists of Leadership Newspaper, after grilling them extensively for several hours at the Force Headquarters over a story which the paper ran last week.

Leadership Newspaper had last week published a story with a banner headline: “Outrage trails presidential directive on Tinubu, APC”, alleging that the Presidency was set to stall the emergence of the opposition party among other decisions aimed at inflicting pains in the nation.


The report, which apparently angered and embarrassed the Presidency, triggered several denials by top aides to Mr. President, who ordered the police to fish out the writers and ascertain the sources of their information.

Acting on the presidential directive, the police invited the journalists, who authored the story to report to its office yesterday and answer questions on the issue.

However, the invitation took a different dimension when four journalists from the tabloid arrived the Louis Edet House and went to the seventh floor to meet the Deputy Inspector General of Police, who was assigned to interrogate them.

Although the quartet of Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe, Chuks Ohuegbe, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe arrived the office of DIG Gama at around 9.45 am yesterday, they were not allowed to leave after being made to write their statements at 12pm.

The four journalists were later grilled by three senior police officers, who insisted that the writers must reveal the sources of their information in the Presidency and how the stories got to them.

They would neither allow the journalists to leave nor do any other thing. After taking the statements from them, the police officers simply told them that they would hear from them.

At the time of this report, the four had been with the police for eight hours.

Vanguard learnt that the journalists’ interrogators were upset when the writers insisted that they would not disclose the source of their information, as it was against the ethics of their profession to do so.

“We told the police that we received the documents we used for the stories in the course of our duties and that we had no intention to betray our sources,” one of the journalists said.

The defiance of the journalists was said to have infuriated the police, who left them in the office. It was not clear as at the time of this report when the four journalists would be freed.

In a letter dated April 7, 2013, marked CR:3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.49/34 and signed by one Danlami Mohammed, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP,  the police authorities summoned the trio of Leadership Newspaper’s Group News Editor, Tony Amokeodo and two correspondents, Chibuzor Ukaibe and Taiwo Ogunmola-Omilani, to report to the Deputy Inspector-General of Police ‘D’ Department.

The letter was addressed to the chairman, Leadership Group Limited.

The letter reads in part: “This office is investigating the circumstances leading to your Front Page publication entitled, “Outrage Trails Presidential Directive On Tinubu, APC” and a sub-title captioned ‘Bromide of the Presidential Directive.’

“Based on our fact finding efforts, you are hereby requested to release the above mentioned reporters to interview the Deputy Inspector General of Police ‘D’ Department, FCID, on Monday, April 8, 2013 at 1000hours.”

In the said presidential directive, dated March 26, 2013, and published by Leadership Newspaper, Jonathan was alleged to have hinted at plans to target the business interests of the ACN national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and to frustrate the merger of the opposition parties at all costs.

The President was said to have also indicated in the controversial directive that petrol prices would be increased from the present N97 per litre to between N130 and N140, but that public opinion should first be gauged on the matter.

When the Presidency denied issuing such a directive, the paper went ahead to publish the ‘directive’ and insisted that it stood by its earlier report, an action that upset the Presidency the more.

The arrest, interrogation and detention of journalists was a regular feature of the military regimes in Nigeria and it was considered outlawed with the return to the democratic government until the latest attempt to resurrect the repressive method.

Editors fault detention, call for their release

The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, Monday faulted the detention of four journalists of Leadership Newspaper by the police over a story published by the paper on the presidency and called for their immediate release.

A statement issued, yesterday, signed by president of the Guild, Mr Femi Adesina said, “The Nigerian Guild of Editors received with deep disturbance and grave consternation news of the detention of four journalists working with Leadership Newspapers yesterday.

Mrs. Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, Mr. Chibuzor Ukaibe and Mr Chuks Ohueghe, were held at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, after honouring an invitation by the police over a report by the newspaper last week, which turned out contentious. The presidency had faulted the report, in which the newspaper claimed (accompanied by the alleged bromide of an official document) that there was an official directive to deal with certain political figures in the country, who were opposed, in one way or the other, to the government of the day.

“Leadership Newspaper, however, responded to the rebuttal, saying it stood by its story”.

According to the Guild “when such a development occurs, as it will inevitably happen in a vibrant and virile polity like ours, we expect the security to scrupulously investigate the issues at stake, while being mindful of the fact that we run a democracy, with freedom of the press enshrined in our Constitution.

“No government that lays claim to democratic credentials can afford to be at loggerheads with the Press, which is a worthy ally in any robust democracy. Yes, Leadership Newspaper and its staff can be investigated for any tendentious report, but this can, and should be done without the scaremongering tactic of clamping the journalists into detention after inviting them to Force Headquarters, where they had reported without any form of resistance.

“After due investigation, if a case is established against the newspaper house, let the judiciary adjudicate. The law has not empowered any agency of government to determine guilt in any form. Only the courts can. We, therefore, demand that the journalists be released, as they will in no way stand in the path of dutiful investigation by the security agencies”.

Source: Vanguard

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a shame on our democracy. This is a big blow on our democracy. The presidency should go back to the constitution and understand the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.

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