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Newspaper editors, publisher harassed and detained by security service and police

(MRA/IFEX) - For about a week, the publisher and editorial managers of the Abuja-based private daily "Leadership", have faced a series of harassments from both the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria's intelligence police and the regular police.

On 14 November 2008, the SSS invited the Executive Director of the daily, Mr. Abraham Ndah Isaiah, to its head office in the Federal Capital. He was interrogated for over three hours before he was released and asked to report back on 15 November with Mrs. Lara Olugbemi, the newspaper's weekend editor, and the author of a story on the alleged ill-health of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

The trio went to the SSS office as directed by the security agency at about 11 a.m. (local time) and were detained. Sam Ndah-Isaiah, the chairman/publisher of the paper, had to hurriedly leave a meeting of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) which was taking place in Lagos. He took the first available plane for the one-hour flight to Abuja where he was detained. All four were later released.

In its edition of 9 October, "Leadership" published a news story in which it alleged that President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua fell ill again and that medical doctors were flown in from Saudi Arabia to attend to his ill health. The Presidency claimed the story was false.

On 11 November, the Nigerian Police had invited all the title editors of "Leadership" newspaper to its headquarters and held a closed-door meeting with Sir Mike Okiro, the Inspector General of Police, following which the management of the paper retracted its story on the ill-health of President Yar'Adua and tendered an unreserved apology for the story.

Subsequently, on 16 November, men of the Nigerian Police invited the publisher, Sam Ndah-Isaiah, and some of his editors to their offices.

Mr. Abdulrazaq Bello-Bakindo and Mrs. Olugbemi, who reported at the SSS office, were detained once again on 17 November and had yet to be released as off 4p.m that same day. The editors are being quizzed about the source of their story. The management of the newspaper said that although there was an error in the report, the story was essentially true as the President fell ill and doctors were flown in from Saudi Arabia.

Even though the Presidency said on 8 November it had instructed its lawyers to sue the newspaper for "libel, defamation of character and publication of falsehood," editorial managers of the tabloid have faced constant harassment from the SSS and the Police.

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