Police occupy journalists’ union in Kogi State

New York, June 24, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the actions of police in Nigeria’s central Kogi State, where officers have occupied the local chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, harassed local journalists, and detained the local union chairman, according to local journalists and the Lagos-based press freedom group Media Rights Agenda.

Police raided union offices in the state capital, Lokoja, on Monday, demanding to see Wole Ayodele, a correspondent for the independent national daily Vanguard, and Isiaka Oyibo, a reporter for the independent national daily Daily Times, CPJ sources said. The papers had published stories alleging that armed bandits had attacked and humiliated the local police commissioner.

The next day, police arrested Segun Omolehin, chairman of the Kogi State branch of the union, and detained him overnight before releasing him without charge. Omolehin told CPJ he was beaten by other inmates on the orders of police officers. Ayodele and Oyibo have since gone into hiding for fear of arrest or violent retribution, according to CPJ sources.

Security forces continued to occupy the union headquarters today, and local journalists cannot gain access to the office.

“Harassing and arresting journalists for doing their jobs is wrong-headed and should be stopped,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Police should vacate the premises of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Lokoja immediately and allow journalists to work without fear of reprisal.”