The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Imo State Chapter, has demanded the immediate release of a journalist arrested by police operatives on Thursday.
The journalist, Chinonso Uba, otherwise known as Nonso Nkwa, was whisked away by the officers after he finished anchoring his morning programme on Ozisa FM, a radio station in Owerri.
The police spokesperson in the state, Henry Okoye, had told PREMIUM TIMES that the journalist was arrested by police operatives from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
Mr Okoye, an assistant superintendent of police, added that he was unaware of the offence committed by the journalist.
However, the Commissioner for Information in Imo State, Declan Emelumba, on Friday, announced that the journalist was arrested for allegedly defaming the state governor, Hope Uzodinma.
According to Mr Emelumba, the journalist had alleged that Mr Uzodinma and former Niger Delta militant leader Asari Dokubo were behind the killings and insecurity in the state.
The commissioner said the governor only petitioned the police to investigate the allegation and compel the journalist to prove his claims.
In a statement on Tuesday by the NUJ signed by its Chairperson, Precious Nwadike, and Secretary, Martins Ori, the group condemned the arrest and continued detention of the journalist.
The union said the state government, rather than arrest, ought to have sued the journalist if they were convinced that he defamed the governor.
It stressed that, as professionals, the NUJ was not opposed to the arrest or interrogating any Nigerian irrespective of social status, political inclination and religious background, as long as it is to investigate a petition filed against such a person.
“Rather, we roundly condemn and vehemently frown at the unprofessional and undemocratic ways some security agencies usually carry out this all-important, critical and very sensitive assignment of interrogation and investigation of alleged crime or offence, and that was what ultimately played out in the case of Nonso Ukwa,” the NUJ said.
The group asked why the journalist was not invited instead, saying that the arrest would have been necessary if he had jumped bail, evaded arrest or rebuffed invitations by the security agencies.
“The Imo NUJ requests for the immediate release of Nonso Nkwa whose arrest, in all practical purposes, did not follow due process as required by law, especially in a democratic setting as we have today,” the statement read in part.
“As it is, a charge of criminal libel has been brought against Mr Uba. We ask that he should be charged to court accordingly without further delay. And this is our sincere stand on Nonso Nkwa,” the statement added.
The NUJ called on the inspector-general of police to be conscious of how his officers were being used by the state government to “intimidate, harass and haul flak at its perceived enemies or imaginary opponents,” citing similar alleged arrests of opposition politicians in the states.
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