How Nigerians reacted to arrests of PREMIUM TIMES journalists

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Nigerians have reacted with alarm to the arrest of the publisher and a correspondent of PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja.

Plain-clothed officers stormed the paper’s office Thursday and arrested the publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, and judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu, after conducting search at the office.

They were later released.

Police spokesman, Don Awunah, said the arrests followed complaints filed by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.

Here are some of the most notable reactions from Nigerians:

 “The increasing raids and arrests of journalists by security agents points to a nation repulsive and allergic to free press and slowly gravitating towards authoritarianism.

“It’s too early for those on the throne to forget their days in the trenches, when the media held the torch that alighted our path, through the dark and dicey path of struggle for change.”

Shehu Sani, Senator, Kaduna Central

“Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

“We are particularly disturbed by the fact that a democratically elected government appears ready to trample all over the media when it carries out its duties as stipulated in the constitution.

We expect the security services, who after all are the custodians of our laws, to lead by example by respecting these laws. Instead, what we see is a disturbing trend that suggests not just an attempt to criminalise the important work that journalists in Nigeria do, but also a drive to frighten and cower and stop this critical constitutionally mandated work through the aggressive use of the state security apparatus.  We view this as an abuse of office.”

Columnists and activists: Kadaria Ahmed, Kayode Ogundamisi, Pius Adesanmi, Sonala Olumhense, Akin Adesokan, Okey Ndibe, Moses Ochonu, Farouk Kperogi, Lola Shoneyin, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, Okey Nwagunma

“The incident is a sad reminder of the gory and momentous tribulations that media practitioners had to endure under the military rule of General Ibrahim Babangida and his successor, General Sani Abacha.

“The invasion of media houses should never happen in a democracy. We cannot understand why a government that is involved in installing democracy in the Gambia is in itself violating the sacred values of democracy at the homefront.

“A damage has been done. Forceful entry into the premises of Premium Times is a warning signal to Nigerians that there is a tendency to return Nigeria into an ignoble past”.

Journalists for Democratic Rights

“This harassments, like the previous before it, is becoming a trend. It smacks of an attempt at using the police to intimidate dissenting voices and stifle public opinion on government actions and inactions.

CSNAC therefore wish to alert President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to the implacable implications of this government’s attempt at declaring hostilities and threats against the civil society and media. No government ever survive such war, not even military juntas.”

Civil Society Network Against Corruption

“I condemn in its entirety the arrest of Dapo Olorunyomi of Premium Times and the attempt to muzzle the media by the government.”

Former Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode

“We should not give the impression that Nigeria is becoming a police state. If journalists publish things that are not true, there are civil ways of dealing with such. Olorunyomi and colleague should be released immediately and there should be an end to this gestapo operations.”

Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere

“The arrest of the publisher by the Nigerian police is an unwelcome development; such acts undermine press freedom and Nigeria’s hard earned democracy”.

“Nigeria is not a police state, so journalists should not be persecuted for executing their responsibility of informing and educating the public. The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) allows citizens access to public records and information held by public officials or institutions. It empowers the press to discharge its duty fairly and truthfully and the government has the responsibility of upholding the law and promoting democracy without any form of press bullying.”

ActionAid Nigeria

“Any government that makes the Press its enemy, will invariably turn to be the enemy of the people as was recently the case in The Gambia where Yaya Jammeh was rejected by the people due to his constant attacks on the Press among other human rights violations.

International Press Centre

“We believe that the crackdown and the increasingly restrictive media atmosphere and impermissible restrictions to freedom of expression has damaged Nigeria’s democratic credentials and violated its international human rights obligations. The crackdown has also impeded the ability of journalists, online newspapers, bloggers and the media in general to hold government authorities to account or scrutinize their activities.”

“The arbitrary arrest of Mr Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of online newspaper Premium Times, and the judiciary correspondent of the online newspaper, Evelyn Okakwu would seem to mark an intensification of a crackdown on media freedom that has been going on for some time now.”

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)

“Democracy cannot survive without a free press, but around the world the press is under siege.  It is under attack in my country, the United States, and it is under attack in Nigeria as well. 

“I myself have worked personally with many of the journalists at the Premium Times.  I have the utmost respect for their honesty and integrity. They are working hard to improve Nigeria and to preserve the freedom and integrity we all wish for this country.  Anyone concerned with democracy must support the freedom of the press.

Margee Ensign, President of American University of Nigeria and Chairperson, Adamawa Peace Initiative (AUN-API) 

“Clamping down on the Media is globally proven to be a slippery slope that Governments AVOID. Mr. President, a better response to media&civil society scrutiny is to provide counterfactual evidence & not repression.

Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister


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