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Intelligence police detain newspaper editor

(MRA/IFEX) - 22 December 2009 - On 21 December 2009 at about 10:00 a.m. local time, operatives of the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria's intelligence agency, detained Ahmed Shekarau, the editor of an Abuja-based newspaper, "The Peoples Daily".

The SSS operatives stormed the Abuja offices of Peoples Media Limited, the publishers of the newspaper, and insisted that Shekarau go with them to their office for a "routine" discussion, an order he complied with. However, he was thereafter detained.

A statement by Alhaji Abdulazeez Abdullahi, the General Manager of Peoples Media Limited, said the operatives wanted the editor to reveal how the newspaper got a story about moves to nominate a new vice-president should Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan succeed ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua. The article was published in the paper's 18 December 2009 edition.

The statement added: "We were able to reach Shekarau where he is being kept against his will. When we reached him around 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, we were made to understand that the security agency wants him to disclose the sources of a report published on Friday last week, concerning President Umaru Yar'Adua's illness and the ongoing schemes in the country to produce a vice-president, in case the situation warrants it."

"The management of Peoples Media Limited considers the detention as an act of intimidation and a violation of the rights of the editor and the newspaper to express themselves, as protected by the Nigerian constitution."

The medium said the matter of the President's ill-health and succession plans are of public interest and that they have received local and international public coverage, adding that: "For this reason, 'The Peoples Daily' will not in all conscience abdicate its duty of informing the public on topical national issues with due balance and respect for the facts of any given case. It will continue to do so despite attempts to muzzle it by any agency of government."

The medium called for Shekarau's release and said it had recruited a firm of solicitors to take up the matter and seek the immediate release of the editor.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities
- calling for the immediate release of Shekarau
- urging the SSS to go to court and seek redress if it believes it has a case against him


APPEALS TO:

Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo
Inspector General of Police
Force Headquarters
Loius Edet House
Shehu Shagari Way
Area 11 Garki,
Abuja, Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 234 0633 / 0422
Fax: +234 9 234 0422
E-mail: [email protected]

Prof. Dora Akunyili
Hon. Minister for Information and National Orientation
Federal Ministry of Information Radio House
Abuja, Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 234 6350 / 234 6351 / 523 7183 / 523 8232 / 234 4107
E-mail: [email protected]

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