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Journalists harassed by governor of northern state for criticising lavish spending

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the way governor Ali Modu Sheriff of the northern state of Borno has hounded journalists since mid-October 2007. After criticising his lavish spending, James Garuba of the "Tribune", Michael Olabode of "This day", another privately-owned daily, and several other reporters were arrested twice in a week by the State Security Service (SSS), the main domestic intelligence agency, and then placed under its daily control.

"Such autocratic behaviour on the part of a governor is a disturbing sign for democracy in Nigeria," the press freedom organisation said. "It is intolerable that provincial authorities can do as they wish with journalists and that the SSS carries out their dirty work. The despotic excesses of certain governors must stop obstructing press freedom."

SSS operatives raided a series of newspapers on 15 October and took Garuba, Olabode and several other journalists to their Borno state headquarters for writing about Sheriff's decision to spend an exorbitant amount of money on gifts for his supporters on the occasion of Ramadan and for criticising it as "wasteful" in a largely under-developed state.

The SSS repeated the raids a few days later, again forcing the journalist to accompany them. "They were held for several hours" and were "made to write statements explaining how they got wind of the affair," said Abubakar Haruna, the Borno correspondent of the privately-owned "Daily Independent". They were finally released, but on the condition that they report to SSS headquarters every day.