Publisher jailed over money laundering story

New York, October 13, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the arrest of a newspaper publisher by Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS). Owei Kobina Sikpi, publisher of the tabloid Weekly Star in the southern city of Port Harcourt, has been held without charge since Tuesday, the paper’s editor, Obinna Ahiaidu told CPJ. He said the arrest was over an article that accused a local official of money laundering.

CPJ has documented three other cases this year of attacks on the press by the SSS, whose agents have detained journalists without charge, raided newsrooms, and harassed newspaper vendors.

“This is yet another disturbing example of the harassment and detention of journalists by the State Security Service,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ Executive Director. “This is not acceptable in a democracy like Nigeria. We call on the authorities to release Owei Kobina Sikpi immediately.”

Sikpi was arrested along with four printing press staff as the Weekly Star was going to press, according to Ahiaidu. The four were released the same day but Sikpi has been held at the SSS office in Port Harcourt. Ahiaidu said he has not been allowed to see him.

Reuters news agency and the Lagos-based Vanguard newspaper quoted the local police commissioner as saying he was not aware of the arrest.