Journo detentions condemned

Africa
(File photo) Media rights groups have condemned the detention by police of Nigerian journalists from Abuja's independent newspaper, Leadership, after the journalists refused to disclose their source for a disputed story on the president. Picture: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

LAGOS - Media rights groups have condemned the detention of Nigerian journalists who refused to disclose their source for a disputed story about the president.

The article, which was published by Leadership newspaper on Tuesday, contained a document it claimed was drafted in President Goodluck Jonathan's office.

In it were alleged calls for the sabotage of an opposition coalition, which was considering fronting a unity candidate for the 2015 presidential polls.

Jonathan's spokesman swiftly dismissed the document as a forgery and police have confirmed an investigation has been launched into the origins of the report.

Police detained and interrogated four journalists from the independent newspaper on Monday.

They were later released from custody, but ordered to report to police headquarters in the capital Abuja every morning, said the company's Managing Director Azubuike Ishikwene.

"This is unacceptable to us... We will decide whether or not they will report at the police headquarters tomorrow," he said.

According to Leadership, police demanded to know the source of the document, which the reporters refused to disclose.

On Tuesday, he charged that two of his staff, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, had been held incommunicado for more than 24 hours.

The two other journalists questioned in the case were Chinyere Fred-Adebulugbe and Chuks Ohuegbe, who were released late Monday.

"If the president feels offended by an article, he has a number of ways to respond other than launching a harassment campaign," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on Tuesday.

Media Rights Agenda, a local press freedom group, called on Nigeria "to put a leash on its rampaging law enforcement agents."

The government "has nothing to gain but everything to lose by projecting to the international community and its citizens an image of a lawless government which muzzles the media," the group further said.

The police were not immediately available to comment on Tuesday.

-Sapa

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