Soldiers harass Nigerian daily over report on military

Abuja, Nigeria, August 22, 2014–Nigerian authorities should stop harassing the independent newspaper the Daily Trust and allow its journalists to cover the news freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Soldiers on Thursday stormed the offices of the Daily Trust in the northeastern city of Maiduguri after a story published by the paper on Wednesday alleged that Nigerian soldiers had refused orders to fight Boko Haram militants until they received better weapons, according to news reports. Mannir Dan-Ali, the paper’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ that the story, titled “Boko Haram Crisis: Soldiers revolt over inadequate weapons,” was based on interviews with soldiers. The BBC had also reported on the soldiers’ mutiny, which military officials said they were investigating.

The soldiers detained two managers of the paper, Jamilu Aliyu and Aminu Ado, at army headquarters, where they were told to stop criticizing the military in the paper, Dan-Ali told CPJ. The two were released after an hour.

The military released a statement that said the Daily Trust should retract the story and, in the future, contact the military for any story on the army or national security. “Failure to do so would henceforth attract sanctions,” the statement said. There were no specific sanctions mentioned. Dan-Ali told CPJ the paper stood by its story and would not publish a retraction.

Chris Olukolade, spokesman for the defense ministry, told CPJ today that there was “certainly no sanction being planned against the Daily Trust or any other medium.”

“The Nigerian military should stop harassing the Daily Trust and other independent news outlets,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative. “The Nigerian public deserves access to a range of information sources, and journalists deserve to work without fear of reprisal.”

Nigeria’s military have targeted independent newspapers, including the Daily Trust, over their critical reporting in recent months, according to CPJ research. In June, in a coordinated sweep, soldiers and Nigeria’s secret police disrupted the deliveries of several newspapers, including Leadership, Daily Trust, The Nation, and Punch.