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Journalists obstructed on World Press Freedom Day

(CPJ/IFEX) - May 11, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Peter Nkanga/CPJ West Africa Consultant

On World Press Freedom Day last week, Nigeria's Information Minister, Labaran Maku, publicly asserted that the country's media "is one of the freest in the universe." On paper, Nigeria's 1999 Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press to "uphold...the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people." But seven journalists who attempted to put this principle to practice on World Press Freedom Day experienced a different reality -- one all too common for independent journalists working in Africa's most populated nation.

On May 3, seven journalists turned up at the police Special Fraud Unit in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, to interview the former state governor and current parliamentarian, Bukola Saraki, whom police had summoned to respond to allegations of involvement in a multimillion dollar fraud, according to local media reports. Police officials directed the journalists to the office of the police spokesperson, Ngozi Isitume, in an adjacent building.

But as the politician emerged, preparing to leave, the personal assistant to SFU Commissioner of Police Tunde Ogunsakin rushed to the office door and locked the journalists inside together with Isitume, several of the journalists told me. They were held in the small office for 15 minutes, until Saraki and his entourage departed, they said.

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