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Nigerian journalist beaten and arrested by soldiers

(IPI/IFEX) - 12 September 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the reported beating and arrest, by soldiers, of David-Chyddy Eleke, a senior correspondent for Leadership newspaper, on 6 September.

The incident occurred as Eleke was taking photographs of a demolition at the Arthur Eze Avenue in the Southeastern region of Awka, reports said.

According to local reports, even after Eleke identified himself as a journalist, soldiers attacked the journalist and confiscated his camera, before throwing him into a patrol van. He was later released.

Nigerian officials told local media that Eleke did not have permission to photograph the demolition area.

"The physical assault of a journalist for doing his or her job is unacceptable under any circumstances, but we are especially troubled at allegations that it was soldiers who attacked David-Chyddy Eleke," IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said. "It is the responsibility of the government, and by extension security forces, to ensure the safety of journalists. We call on the authorities to conduct a full investigation into this reported attack."

The chairman of the Anambra State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Toochuku Udoji-Omelu, was quoted by Leadership as saying: "We have remained the best of friends with the government of this state, and to think that the same people can be responsible for the brutalisation of our member is the height of assault."

Since the beginning of the year, there have been several reported attacks against journalists in Nigeria, including the fatal shooting of cameraman Chuks Ogu in April.

In August, in separate incidents, two photojournalists for local newspapers, Tunde Ogundeji of Compass and Ben Uwalaka of Leadership were both brutally attacked.

Uwalaka of Leadership newspaper was reportedly battered by a group of workers at the mortuary of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), after wanting to photograph the bodies of the victims of the Dana air crash. In an interview with his newspaper, Uwalaka said he was beaten with sticks and various objects including a bottle.

The Nigerian Union of Journalists had reportedly taken legal action against LASUTH. Additionally, IPI urged for the perpetrators of the attacks in August to be brought to justice.

IPI welcomes recent news that one of the attackers of Ben Uwalaka has been arraigned before court.

On August 31, Bayo Ogunsola, one of two assailants identified by Uwalaka, was arraigned for allegedly assaulting Uwalaka and destroying his camera. Ogunsola, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is due in court on 4 October, 2012 for trial. His lawyer has appealed for an out of court settlement, however, Uwalake has assured to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that despite pressure he will not drop charges. Iyobosa Uwugiraren, the managing editor of Leadership similarly expressed they will support Uwalaka throughout his trail.

IPI urges the Nigerian authorities to continue to ensure safety of journalists in the country and bring all those responsible for attacks against journalists to justice.

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