The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has decried the arrest of the Editor of News Digest online newspaper, Gidado Shuaib, and the newspaper’s webmaster, Adebowale Adekoya.
The two were arrested on Wednesday over an investigative story the newspaper published last year with the headline “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized”.
The story revealed the unchecked and unsanctioned use of Indian hemp by the workers of Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry in Ilorin throughout the loading and unloading processes of grains.
The factory is said to be owned by a former acting governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sarah Alade.
CISLAC said it is concerned by the recent trend of journalists arrest and detention, as expressed in the Amnesty International’s report. It said the “deliberate unabated restrictions against freedom of expression as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as a major setback to Nigeria’s democratic core values and respect before the international community.
The Amnesty International report, “Endangered Voices and Attack on Freedom of Expression in Nigeria”, documents attacks on journalists and media activists and the failure of the Nigerian authorities to investigate the violations and hold perpetrators to account.
Attacks on the media have grown over the years, not only in Nigeria but in the other parts of the world.
During the 2019 World Press Freedom Day at the UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other speakers took turns to decry the growing number of attacks on media workers around the world
In a release signed by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, the organisation called on relevant authorities to secure citizens’ rights at all levels.
It said Mr Shuaib, who is also the anchor of Youth Digest, has been in the forefront of training young investigative journalists on accountability in the public sector.
It said this he demonstrated in “Campus Investigative Journalists Workshop,” a workshop organised by CISLAC in collaboration with Youth Digest, where campus students were trained on effective reportage.
This it said is in addition to the Campus Journalism Awards, where best performing Campus Journalists were rewarded and encouraged in January this year.
It also said that it is aware of the media’s role in influencing public opinion, shaping political agenda, providing a link between the government and the people, while acting as the government’s watchdog in advancing good governance.
It said the media has a crucial role in the promotion of democracy and the rule of law; just as media is indispensable for people to be informed and to effectively participate in a democracy.
“It is on this premise that CISLAC will continue to support young investigative journalists to pursue various legal means to expose corruption and illegalities in our society, as this forms the basis of good governance, transparency and accountability that CISLAC advocates and upholds,” it said.
CISLAC then appealed to the law enforcement agencies and the government to refrain from arbitrary arrests of journalists who expose malpractices and criminal acts.
It said the perpetrators of corruption and other heinous crimes are the true enemies of the state who drag Nigeria into the abyss.
“Investigative journalists are patriots who should be celebrated, not arrested on fabricated charges and physically abused,” it said.
The organisation called for the release of Messrs. Shuaib and Adekoya and to restrain Nigerian authorities from “military dictatorship-like practices”.