CPJ condemns detention of National Geographic photographer

New York, June 20, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the four-day detention of veteran freelance photographer, Ed Kashi, who was on assignment for U.S. magazine National Geographic in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. Kashi, a U.S. citizen, was arrested June 16 along with his Nigerian fixer, Elias Courson, while photographing an oil facility in Bayelsa State. Kashi and Courson were released without charge on Monday in the southern city of Port Harcourt.

“We are deeply disturbed that Nigerian authorities have sought to limit coverage of the Niger Delta, where militants are fighting for control of the region’s oil reserves,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Journalists working in Nigeria must be free to report on a matter of such obvious public concern.”

Kashi had been in Nigeria for about a month before he was arrested, according to his wife, Julie Winokur. He and Courson were first held by the Nigerian Navy before being transferred to the custody of the State Security Service (SSS), according to news reports and Winokur.

The Navy accused Kashi and Courson of photographing the oil facility without permission, Reuters reported. However, two journalists in Port Harcourt contacted by CPJ were not aware of regulations requiring official authorization to photograph oil production.

“He didn’t do anything illegal,” Winokur told CPJ today.

Winokur said that Kashi and Courson were not mistreated in detention. Kashi, who has traveled to the Niger Delta twice in the past two years, plans to stay in Nigeria for another week to finish his assignment, his wife added. Kashi’s photographs of the Delta region have appeared in National Geographic, Time magazine, and the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.