The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urges Nigerian authorities to immediately release two journalists who have been detained since Monday, and allow a third journalist who has fled and was hiding to return to his home and work freely.
Reporter Aliyu Saleh and editor Musa Muhammad Awwal, both from Al-Mizun, a weekly Hausa-language newspaper, were arrested at their homes in pre-dawn raids on Monday by about 40 armed security agents, CPJ said last night, quoting local reports. The arrests took place at the journalists’ hometown of Rigasa, in the northern state of Kaduna. The agents also confiscated the journalists’ phones and money, and briefly detained the journalists’ wives, news reports said.
Saleh and Awwal are being held at the headquarters of the State Security Service in the capital city Abuja, and the reason for the arrest is still unclear, Nigeria Union of Journalists chairman Yusuf Idris told CPJ. Security Services spokesperson Marilyn Ogar did not immediately respond to CPJ’s inquiries. In another development, the home of Al-Mizan editor-in-chief Ibrahim Musa was raided by security agents, but he was not at home at that time. Musa has since fled and was hiding.
Musa told the daily Punch that he believed the journalists were being targeted for the lead story in the latest edition of Al-Mizan called Atrocities of JTF in Potiskum. The story said the Nigerian federal government’s Joint Task Force, the special unit combating the insurgency of militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, had allegedly abducted 84 individuals in the northern state of Yobe.
The whereabouts of the individuals were still unknown, news reports said. Musa also said the story included pictures of the individuals who were still missing, and accounts from their family members. In October, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the JTF of abusive detention practices, but Nigerian security forces denied the allegations, according to news reports.
“We condemn the arrests of Saleh and Muhammad Awwal, along with the raid at Musa’s home, which appear to silence the coverage of alleged abuses by Nigeria’s security agencies,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “We demand the immediate release of these journalists and a halt to the security agencies’ efforts to intimidate the press. National leaders must make it clear that security agents are not above the law.”