The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), of which Media Rights Agenda (MRA) is a member, has condemned the actions of men of the Nigerian Police Force in Abia State who on January 17, 2024, stormed the ABN TV studio in Umuahia and arrested a guest, Mr. Udensi Donald, during a live programme.
CWPPF noted that the incident which occurred during the broadcast of “Youth Rendezvous” programme anchored by Ms Grace Onyekachi, is a blatant violation of press freedom and a cause for great concern as it infringes on the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the right of access to information.
The Coalition added that the action conveys an intention to censor the media through threats and harassment. CWPPF said it was “deeply troubled by the unwarranted intrusion into the media house and the subsequent arrest of its guest.”
Mr. Ifeanyi Okali, the Director of ABN TV, revealed in a statement that the police claimed the arrest was based on a petition filed by Mr. Uche Udensi, an elder brother of the guest, over a family matter. Despite pleas from the station staff to allow the program to conclude before effecting the arrest, the police personnel proceeded to apprehend Mr. Udensi, demonstrating a clear contravention of established norms.
CWPPF stated that the actions of the police operatives from the police headquarters, as reported by Mr. Okali, including barricading doors, harassment, intimidation, and threats against ABN TV staff, are concerning.
It strongly denounced the reported destruction of ABN TV’s broadcasting equipment, including a laptop, camera, and microphones, during the police raid. “These acts are not only capable of inflicting financial losses on the media house but can also jeopardize the unrestricted flow of information. Between 1996 and now, the CJID Press Attack Tracker has documented 39 comparable incidents where journalists’ and newsrooms’ equipment was damaged or seized.”
CWPPF demanded an open apology from the Abia State Command of the Nigerian Police for its unjustified attack on press freedom saying the incident highlights a need for proper training and orientation of law enforcement officers on best practices for engaging with the civil populace, especially in democratic environments where the media play crucial roles in public discourse.
CWPPF called for a swift and transparent investigation into this incident, urging the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abia State Police Command, Mr. Maureen Chinaka, to provide detailed information on the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
CWPPF is 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. It is an initiative rooted in the 2017 ‘No News Is Bad News Programme’ organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU) in collaboration with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (formerly Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism).