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Nigerian journalists detained for refusing to disclose source

The International Press Institute (IPI) today protested the continued detention of two Nigerian journalists who are reportedly being held by police because they refuse to disclose the source of a leaked document that has embarrassed Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: "We remind the Nigerian authorities that journalists have the right to protect their sources, even when the leaked information causes embarrassment to the authorities. President Goodluck Jonathan's administration should immediately and unconditionally release the media representatives."

Four journalists from Leadership newspaper were summoned to police headquarters on Monday, April 8, for questioning about an article published last week, according to the Associated Press (AP). They included Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe, executive director of Leadership Sunday, Chuks Ohuegbe, managing editor, Tony Amokeodo, group news editor, and Chibuzor Ukaibe, political reporter.

They were questioned about a story published on April 3, in which the paper reprinted an apparent copy of a presidential directive. The document appeared to show the president attempting to prevent the four biggest opposition parties from merging, and indicated that the government might increase fuel prices.

Two of the journalists, Fred-Adegbulugbe and Ohuegbe, were later released on condition that they report back to police on Tuesday, but the two other journalists are still in custody, according to Azubuike Ishiekwene, managing director of Leadership group. They are allegedly being held until they disclose the source of the apparently leaked directive.

IPI was unable to reach a police spokesperson for comment.

McKenzie said: "In a country where journalists have repeatedly come under attack, Nigerian security forces need to concentrate on protecting the safety of journalists rather than infringing on their rights."

Nigerian media houses and journalists were the victims of violent attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram last year. More recent attacks include the abduction of Olubunmi Oke, a journalist with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who was kidnapped from her home in Akure in Ondo state on March 21, 2013, and held for three days. On the other hand, police have also been responsible for a number of journalist arrests and detentions, and the use of criminal libel laws to harass journalists continues.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • MRA condemns detention of Leadership newspapers reporters

    MRA’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms Jennifer Onyejekwe, argued that journalists depend on their sources in order to inform the public and that their ability to do so would be compromised if they are forced to reveal confidential sources. Besides, she said, the independence of journalists will be compromised if their sources and professional materials are made available to the police.

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