Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Nigerian authorities to immediately free a journalist who was arrested after publishing a leaked police report about a controversial operation by the State Security Service (SSS) and reminds them that the confidentiality of journalists’ sources must be respected.
Samuel Ogundipe, who works for the investigative news website Premium Times, has been held ever since his arrest by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja on 14 August after posting a copy of the report on the site.
Written by police inspector-general Ibrahim Idris, the report criticizes the action of masked SSS agents who blocked access to the national assembly building in Abuja for several hours on 7 August. According to Premium Times, the police are trying to discover who leaked the report to Ogundipe.
“The confidentiality of sources is one of journalism’s fundamental principles and reporters must not be detained for refusing to reveal the identity of those who provide them with information,”said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call for this journalist’s immediate and unconditional release. He has no place behind bars.”
The leaked report accused SSS director general Lawal Daura of ordering the operation for “selfish political goals” without consulting other public security officials or the president’s office. The operation prevented senators from holding a meeting in which they were to debate removing the senate president, who recently joined the opposition.
Premium Timeseditor in chief Musikilu Mojeedand one of the site’s reporters, Azeezat Adedigba, were also briefly detained.
In an open letter to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, currently the acting president, the Nigerian Union of Journalists condemned the “incessant attacks on journalists” by the police inspector-general and pointed out that two journalists were held for ten days in January after criticizing the security forces.
The Daily Independent newspaper’s Abuja bureau chief, Tony Ezimakor, was arrested by the SSS at the end of February and was held for a week for refusing to reveal his sources for a story about the ransoms that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration allegedly paid for the schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014.
Nigeria is ranked 119th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.