Newspaper Correspondent Harassed, Detained for Taking Pictures


Mr. Simon Utebor, the Bayelsa State Correspondent of the Punch newspaper was on May 28, 2015 harassed and detained by soldiers guarding the country home of then outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, for taking photographs of the sprawling expanse of real estate.

Utebor was in Otuoke to ascertain the level of preparedness ahead of Jonathan’s homecoming and was taking photographs of the home where the ex-president will live after six years at the helms of the nation’s affairs.

The men of the Joint Task Force operating in the area arrested him after harassing him and handed him over to the Bayelsa police. He was reportedly transferred to the state CID where he made a statement on the incident.

A journalist with one of the national dailies, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that: “They arrested him and took him to Kolo Police Station in Ogbia Local Government Area. From there, they took him (Utebor) to the Bayelsa State Police Command. The IPO took him to the state CID where he was asked to write a statement.

“Instead of the IPO to take Utebor back to the CP around 6pm, they detained him and later pushed into the cell,” the journalist said.

Narrating his ordeal after his release, Utebor said after he began taking pictures of activities of construction going on, some operatives of the Joint Task Force guarding the gate of the estate swooped on him. He said they ordered him to surrender his Blackberry which he was using to capture the scene and that he obliged without hesitation. He said he was informed that he was under arrest and all the gadgets including his Samsung Galaxy Notes, mobile phone and BlackBerry were confiscated.

In addition, the military men also seized his official identity card and wristwatch accusing him of espionage and ordered to name his sponsors.

Utebor said they tortured him in spite of explaining to them that he is a journalist. They disclosed to him that he was on their wanted list having written an earlier piece titled “Aso Rock exit: Jonathan to live in Island Palatial estate,” threatening he will pay dearly for the report.

While he was being tortured, the rain began to fall and he was asked to stand in the rain where he was completely drenched. He said he was detained for over 5 hours at the security gate to ex-president Jonathan’s estate before he was driven to Kolo Police Station in Ogbia where he was again detained for about 30 minutes and later transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Yenagoa. It was here that he was allowed to make a call to his colleague.

The journalist said at the SCID, the police took his statement. At about 8pm he said the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) ordered that he be ‘properly’ detained and at 9pm, after he was stripped of his clothing, he was thrown into a cell with other detainees.

He said at about 12.30 am on Friday, he was brought out, given a bail bond to fill and released on self-recognition, without being given the property confiscated from him but asked to report at the station later in the day.