Judge Orders Detention of Journalists, Deletion of Press Photographs

Justice Chizoba Orji, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

On June 7, 2022, officials of the  High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama, Abuja, detained six judiciary correspondents who were in the court to cover the day’s proceedings. The judge, Justice Chizoba Orji, later ordered the deletion of all the photographs and videos that the Africa Independent Television (AIT) reporter, Ms Wumi Obabori, had taken without her authorization from her gadgets. The journalists were then expelled from the court.

Trouble started when Wunmi attempted to do a video recording after Justice Orji stood down a matter to prepare the ruling in her chambers. The court Registrar, a woman, pounced on Wunmi saying she had no right to cover the court. Journalists who were in the court explained to the Registrar that journalists could make recordings while the court was not in session, but she summoned the police officer attached to the judge to arrest the reporter.

The other reporters involved were Mr. Godwin Tsa of the Sun Newspaper, Ikechukwu Nnochiri of Vanguard Newspaper, Austin Okezie of Raypower FM. Kunle Olasanmi of Leadership Newspaper and Mr. Charles Ozoemena.

A policeman, Gusar Dauda, who claimed to have the authority of the judge, locked the door of the courtroom, pulled out his gun and ordered all the journalists to surrender their phones. They were detained until the judge re-emerged from her chambers about an hour later.

When the judge reemerged from her chambers, she ordered Wunmi to step forward and asked her why she was taking pictures and videos in her court and who gave her permission to do that. She explained that she is an accredited judiciary reporter and that it is a normal practice for reporters to take pictures and videos when the court is not sitting, even up to the Supreme Court.

But the judge responded angrily: “You don’t have such right! If there is such permission, it must be in writing. Who gave you the permission? Show me the authorisation?”

At this point, Justice Orji ordered that all the pictures and videos on Wunmi’s phone be deleted, and thereafter asked the registrar to unlock the court door and walk all the journalists out of the courtroom.