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Police assault, briefly detain journalists covering protest

(MRA/IFEX) - On 10 March 2010, a combined team of security agents from the Anti-Terrorism Squad and anti-riot policemen attached to the Onitsha Area Command assaulted and detained four journalists for three hours for covering a peaceful demonstration. The demonstration was staged by members of the Association of Radio and Television Technicians Anambra State (ARTTANS) in the commercial city of Onitcha in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria. The affected journalists were Daniel Ukpai and Augustine Ngwu, both of whom are reporters for Minaj Broadcast International (MBI) in Obosi, MBI cameraman Samuel Nwabuisi and Ifeanyinwa Ede, a reporter for the Nigerian Television Authority in Onitsha. A Sony PD 170 digital camera belonging to MBI was also damaged by the policemen.

John Nwele, the Onitsha Police area commander, ordered their release.

Nwabuisi said they were driving through Iweka Road when they saw a group of traders demonstrating and carrying placards and decided to stop to find out what was happening.

Recounting their ordeal, Ngwu said, "As we were getting the story of the protest, four Toyota Hilux Jeeps carrying about 40 policemen from the mobile, anti-terrorist unit as well as special bike police landed at the scene, rounded everybody up for a mass arrest; beating, slapping, kicking everybody and later tied us together with clothes. In the process of the beating, I got a cut on my right leg while my colleague, Ukpai, got a cut on his mouth. Our camera was smashed before we were all dragged to the police area command headquarters for detention." He said that at the police station the policemen refused to pay attention to their efforts to identify themselves as journalists but detained them, along with about 40 traders, who were protesting against alleged intimidation tactics used by a rival group of traders.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities:
- asking the police inspector general to investigate the assault and bring responsible to justice
- demanding that the police replace the damaged Sony PD 170 digital camera
- calling for compensation for the affected journalists


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]

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