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Friday, 14 October 2011

UPDATE: ‘Nation’ Editor Released

Police investigations to continue 

By: Naomi Hunt, Press Freedom Adviser

Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim. Photo courtesy of The Nation.

VIENNA, 14 Oct. 2011 - The International Press Institute (IPI) was relieved to learn that Yusuf Alli, and editor at The Nation newspaper, was released from government custody yesterday afternoon, according to reports.

Mr. Alli has been told that he will not face criminal charges, he told the Associated Press. "No matter what the pressure, I won't disclose my source," Alli told the AP. "I stood my ground that the letter was not forged and I did cross-check my facts before I published.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is said to have personally had a hand in Mr. Alli's release, continues to deny that he was responsible for the raid and arrests of staff at the newspaper.


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VIENNA, 13 Oct. 2011 - All but one of the editors and employees of The Nation who were arrested yesterday have been released, according to news reports.

Managing editor for Northern Operations Yusuf Alli remains in custody. Alli has since been charged with sedition and forgery, Chairman of the Editorial Board Sam Omatseye told IPI.

“Journalists should never be prosecuted for having published information about state leaders that they believed was genuine,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “Moreover, it is inappropriate to use anti-state charges against journalists, whose duty is to the public and not to the government. It is not treason to inform citizens when their leaders are alleged to have done something illegal or embarrassing.”

The others detained were Deputy Editor Lawal Ogienagbon and News Editor of the weekend titles Dayo Olufade, Abuja Bureau Chief Yomi Odunuga, Labour correspondent, Mrs Dupe Olaoye-Oshinkolu, Legal Editor John Unachukwu and Chief Security Officer (CSO), Jide Adegbuyi, The Nation reported.

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VIENNA, 12 Oct 2011 – The Lagos offices of The Nation newspaper in Nigeria were raided yesterday and seven staff members were arrested, the daily reported on its website. The newspaper believes that the raid and arrests came in connection with the recent publication of a letter apparently sent by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to current President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Nation’s Abuja offices were “ransacked” and searched by police for over two hours today, the paper said

The seven staff members, including six journalists and the head of company security, are still in detention but have not been charged, which is a violation of Nigerian law, journalists told IPI.

The newspaper had originally reported that the former president had asked Jonathan to fire “some heads of agencies,” Sam Omatseye, Chairman of The Nation’s Editorial Board, told IPI by phone from Vienna, where he and other top editors from the newspaper are attending a conference of the World Association of Newspapers.  

Obasanjo denied the allegation the next day. In response, The Nation published a copy of the letter including Obasanjo’s signature, according to Omatseye. “I think he used his influence to get the current president to get the police and come and arrest our guys,” Omatseye said.

Police had originally come looking for Omatseye, Chief Editor Victor Ifijeh and other top editors who were not in Lagos yesterday.  Instead, they detained the deputy editor in Lagos, Lawal Ogienagbon, and from The Nation’s Abuja offices, they arrested the managing editor, bureau chief and the deputy editor of the weekend paper, along with three other correspondents, Omatseye told IPI. Those who were arrested in Lagos have been flown to Abuja, according to Omatseye.

“We are appalled to hear that the police would simply raid the offices of The Nation and start arresting journalists,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “We are even more appalled that, over 24 hours later, the journalists remain in custody and have not been charged, which is a violation of their rights. Unless police have concrete evidence to prove that these journalists committed a crime, they should release them immediately.

“The Nation and all other news outlets in Nigeria have a right to publish the news, whether or not it embarrasses the president and former president,” Bethel McKenzie said.

The International Press Institute visited Lagos and Abuja in July 2011, where a delegation of IPI members and staff met with the Information Minister and Speaker of Parliament, who voiced their support of press freedom. (Mission Report in sidebar; downloads PDF)