MRA, Others Condemns Unjust Detention of ICIR’s News Editor, Calls for Investigation

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Mr. Lanre Suraj, CWPPF

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and other members of the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) have condemned the arbitrary and unjust arrest and detention on December 4, 2023, of Mr. Marcus Fatunmole, News Editor at the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR). They called on the Police authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, and arrest and prosecute the erring officers.

Expressing deep concern over the harassment faced by Marcus while carrying out his duties, the Coalition noted that his investigative reporting on controversial buses circulating on social media, claimed to be part of an FCT mass transportation scheme, was unjustly interrupted by security operatives.

According to CWPPF, security operatives, including a police officer from Abuja Property Development Company (APDC), and a 360 TFA private security named Ms Ibukun Akindele, unlawfully detained him, obstructing his right to freely exercise his duties as a journalist despite presenting valid identification and confirmation from his editor.

The Coalition added that the seizure of his phone and intrusion into his Google account by Abuja Property Development Company (APDC) security officials further exacerbated the violation of his rights, including his rights to privacy, expression, and the press.

The Coalition called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to thoroughly investigate the matter and take appropriate actions against Ms Ibukun Akindele, the TFA private security officer involved who is also a lawyer, for colluding with the police in violating the journalist’s rights.

CWPPF said: “We note that the detainment and harassment of Mr. Fatunmole was unjust, unlawful and failed to comply with legal processes. There was no warrant of arrest, he committed no crime and yet was detained and subjected to long hours of interrogation by the police on the instruction of Ms Ibukun Akindele, who claims to be a 360 TFA private security.”

The CWPPF emphasized it stands against any form of harassment or intimidation aimed at stifling journalists’ freedom, pointing out that the incident should give rise to an urgent need for comprehensive training and sensitization for security agents to uphold press freedom and protect journalists in the line of duty.

Furthermore, the CWPPF urged ICIR to explore legal avenues to seek redress for the violation of Marcus’ rights. It demanded that all responsible parties be held accountable for violating the editor’s rights.

The group further called for the sensitization of security operatives, emphasising the essential role of journalists. It also called on stakeholders to collaborate in developing urgent measures to prevent further harassment and intimidation of journalists.

The CWPPF, a group of media and civil society organisations committed to upholding democracy and good governance by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom in Nigeria, comprises of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Premium Times. The Cable, Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), and African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL).

The other member organisations of CWPPF are Civic Media Lab, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), International Press Centre (IPC), International Press Institute (IPI), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and HEDA Resources Centre.