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Nigeria: Publisher Daniel Elombah released, but Tim Elombah remains in police custody

Members of Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) escort a suspected kidnap kingpin to prison, in Lagos, 30 August 2017
Members of Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) escort a suspected kidnap kingpin to prison, in Lagos, 30 August 2017

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on 6 January 2018.

Daniel Elombah, the Nigerian publisher of the London-based online news portal elombah.com, has been released by the police after sustained public pressure on the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police following the arrest and detention of the journalist together with his brother and Editor of the news website, Tim Elombah on January 1, 2018.

Tim Elombah however remains in police custody without any statement as to the reason for his arrest and detention.

Officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police stormed the family house of the two journalists in Edoji-Uruagu Nnewi in Anambra State around 4:00 am and arrested them and took them to the State police headquarters, and subsequently to the Federal Police headquarters in Abuja.

The action is widely believed to be related to a critical opinion article by one Eboiwei Dickson titled IGP Ibrahim Idris's Unending Baggage of Controversies, which was published by the website. The arrest was effected a couple of days after the publication.

The arrest provoked a storm of protests by the media, especially members of the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, (OPAN) as well as human rights and press freedom groups.

Dozens of phone calls were made directly to the IGP after his personal phone number was obtained and made public by OPAN, to demand the immediate release of the Elombahs.

The President of OPAN, Austyn Ogannah, said the raid and arrest is an attempt to intimidate and harass the online press. "Were they planning to overthrow the government? Why disrupt their peace on New Year Day? OPAN is determined to resist any move to intimidate the online press," he said, adding that the organisation has briefed its lawyers about the case and will challenge the arrest in court if the journalists are not released.

"We are not in a tyranny. You cannot be using SARS or DSS to arrest journalists & critics in 2018," said Deji Adeyanju, the Convener of a human rights group, Concerned Nigeria.

The pressure achieved a measure of success when the publisher was released on January 2. The media and civil society groups are continuing their call for the release of Tim Elombah.

The MFWA condemns the violent and arbitrary arrest of the two journalists and joins the call for the immediate release of Tim Elombah. Harassing journalists for publishing critical articles is a denial of the fundamental right of freedom of expression and of opinion.

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