Al-Mizan editor Musa Muhammad Awwal. (Al-Mizan)
Al-Mizan editor Musa Muhammad Awwal. (Al-Mizan)

Nigeria harasses, intimidates journalist for critical weekly

Abuja, Nigeria, February 15, 2013–Authorities should halt their harassment of a Nigerian journalist whose paper published allegations of extrajudicial detentions being carried out by the country’s special army unit, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Armed officers of Nigeria’s Joint Task Force and members of the State Secret Service (SSS) raided the Kaduna home of Musa Muhammad Awwal, an editor of the Hausa-language weekly Al-Mizan, early on Thursday, according to news reports. The agents seized Awwal’s laptop and phone and took him into custody, saying they had been told to bring him to Abuja, the capital, Al-Mizan Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Musa, said in a press release. The officers did not cite a reason for the detention or produce a warrant, Abdulmumin Giwa, an editor at Al-Mizan, told CPJ. Giwa also said that the Nigeria Union of Journalists had confirmed that Awwal was being held by the SSS.

Awwal has been harassed in the past. On December 24, he and Al-Mizan reporter Aliyu Saleh were detained and held for eight days without charge or explanation. After they were released, Awwal said he was interrogated about the whereabouts of Al-Mizan Editor-in-Chief Musa, who went into hiding after his home was also raided the same day, according to the online daily Premium Times.

Local journalists told CPJ they believe Al-Mizan journalists are being intimidated and harassed in connection with a December 21 front-page story that said the Joint Task Force was carrying out extrajudicial detentions. The story included pictures of some of the alleged detainees as well as accounts from their family members. After the story was published, the JTF released some of the prisoners, according to news reports.

The unit has dismissed allegations of any abuses, news reports said.

“The arbitrary detention of Musa Muhammad Awwal highlights the very problem Al-Mizan exposed,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “These violations of due process undermine public confidence in the rule of law. Awwal should be released immediately.”