Two sports journalists kidnapped in Nigeria

New York, March 2, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the safety of two sports journalists, one South African and one Nigerian, who were seized by unidentified gunmen in military uniforms on Monday. The gunmen stopped a bus carrying 21 crew members of M-Net’s SuperSport channel, a South African private satellite television station, and took the three journalists hostage, local journalists told CPJ. Another Nigerian journalist was able to escape.

The journalists were abducted near the southern town of Owerri, Imo State, on their way to the local airport. South African sound engineer Nic Greyling and Nigerian commentator Bowie Attamah are being held captive while the remaining TV crew arrived safely in Lagos, M-Net spokeswoman Caroline Creasy told CPJ. According to national police spokesman Yemi Ajayi, Nigerian cameraman Alexander Effiong managed to escape after the abduction. Police and security agents were pursuing the kidnappers in both Imo and neighboring Anambra State, he added.

“We are alarmed by the abduction of these three sports journalists and fear for their safety,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “We call on the Nigerian authorities to make every effort possible to ensure their release.”

The crew was returning from a Nigerian premier league soccer match held on Sunday in the nearby city of Engu, local journalists reported.

A ceasefire between rebel groups in the Niger Delta region and the government ended in January. Militants have carried out a series of attacks in the region demanding more oil revenues be devoted to local development. The attacks have cost Nigeria millions in lost revenue over the years.