Detained Nigerian journalist released on bail

The journalist, Oke Epia
Oke Epia

A Nigerian journalist who was briefly detained by the police on Tuesday has been released.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Okey Epia, the publisher of Order Paper, was held at the National Assembly division of the police after he honoured a police invitation on Tuesday morning.

He was invited by the police based on a complaint by a former federal lawmaker, Tony Nwulu.

Order Paper had earlier confirmed that Mr Epia was detained by the police.

The newspaper later confirmed his release on bail.

The Complaint

The police had invited Mr Epia over what it described as ‘criminal complaint’ lodged against the journalist.

The invitation was based on a complaint by Mr Nwulu, a former member of the House of Representatives.

The relationship with the former legislator started after a publication before the 2019 general elections. The social media post profiled Rep members vying for either governorship or deputy governorship positions.

In profiling Mr Nwulu, Order Paper said it reached out to the lawmaker to account for “missing funds and projects for Zonal Intervention Projects in the 2016 budget, a claim he is yet to respond to.”

In his reaction on Twitter, Mr Nwulu branded the newspaper as fake, alleging that it never assessed his stewardship.

“Fake medium. No sensible person should take you guys serious. Tribal bigots. At least your faceless promoters should try running for office and effect the change they desire and not just being pathetic armchair critics hiding under a useless medium to extort,” he tweeted on his handle @tonynwulu.

Mr Nwulu later told PREMIUM TIMES that he did not threaten the journalist but only reported him to the police for alleged falsehood.

“The invitation from the police, yes, I did (report him) because he needs to come and prove. And then I’ve not done any other thing than file charges against him. I want him to come and prove what he has said,” the former lawmaker said in a telephone interview.

JOURNALISTS REACT

The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom condemned what it described as an attack and harassment on one of its members.

The coalition referred to the threats to the staff of OrderPaper and Mr Epia. It said it considers the lawmaker’s actions as a breach of the constitutional rights that allow journalists to do their lawful work.

The statement was jointly signed by Premium Times, Sahara Reporters, OrderPaper, The Cable, Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Other signatories are African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Civic Media Lab, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), Paradigm Initiative, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and HEDA Resources Centre.

The coalition advised Mr Nwulu to desist from further threats or face legal action.

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