The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, has condemned the recent arrest of a newspaper publisher, Emmanuel Sam, by the police in the state.
Mr Sam, publisher of the Guide, a local newspaper in the state, was invited to the police headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, on Thursday, where he was reportedly detained for several hours.
He was later released on bail in the evening of that day.
Mr Sam told PREMIUM TIMES that the police said they arrested him based on a petition that his paper published a story dismissing as false, an alleged attempt on the life of Nsima Ekere, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
“They said I should have waited for the police to conclude their investigation before we publish our story,” Mr Sam said.
“Nsima Ekere said the governor and the state government sent assassins after him. I asked the government if that was true, and they said it wasn’t true, and from there we did a report to say that Nsima Ekere was lying.
“For me, the police should also invite those who published the story that the governor sent assassins after Nsima Ekere,” he said.
The police asked the newspaper publisher to come back to its headquarters on Monday.
It is unclear if the police intend to charge him to court or want to interrogate him further.
“I am not aware of any case between the police and Emmanuel Sam,” the police spokesperson in the state, Odiko McDon, told PREMIUM TIMES, Friday.
The NUJ issued a statement over the weekend describing the arrest and detention of the newspaper publisher as an “ugly trend” in the state.
“That journalists and newspaper publishers are today hounded by security agencies, at the least promptings in Akwa Ibom State, is a very unhealthy development which is completely antithetical to democratic tenets,” said the statement which was signed by the chairman and the secretary of the NUJ, Patrick Albert and Amos Etuk, respectively.
The NUJ said Mr Sam was arrested “by the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the Police over a petition by a certain politician”.
The union, however, didn’t mention the politician they said petitioned the publisher to the police.
“Though, Comrade Sam has been granted bail by the Police and asked to report whenever needed, we believe that the circumstance of his travails is lacking in merit and he should be released unconditionally,” the union said.
Meanwhile, the APC governorship candidate, Mr Ekere, has denied having a hand in the arrest and detention of Mr Sam.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Utibe Ukim, Mr Ekere said, “For the avoidance of doubt, let me state clearly that Mr. Ekere is not – and cannot be – behind the travails of Prince Sam or any journalist, publisher, blogger or anyone with opinion that differs from his.
“Mr Ekere is not synonymous with the Nigerian Police Force and we will therefore refuse every attempt to link him to the activities of the Police anywhere and in any manner.
“Mr Ekere is a staunch believer in press freedom and in the rights of media practitioners to hold governments and leaders accountable for the trust reposed on them by the people.
“He believes in the right to free speech. As he has said very often, a free press is a critical building block for the future he envisions for Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria and cannot take or support any action that curtails that freedom.”