Mr. Haruna Mohammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes and Idris Kamal, a journalist with the online media outlet, were on June 27, 2022 arrested by officers of the Bauchi State Police Command after they honoured an invitation by the police and were arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Bauchi, which ordered that they be kept in police custody.
The journalists had the previous day honoured a police invitation by the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) and were released after about 10 hours at the police station. However, when they returned to the station the following day as directed by the police, they were taken to court and arraigned.
It is suspected that the journalists’ ordeal is connected with a WikkiTimes report titled ‘How Bauchi APC Chairman Died After Series of Threats’ and published on May 18, 2022. In the report, the medium details how Hussaini Musa Gwaba, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bauchi State, received a series of threats before he was eventually assassinated.
The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of the case, disclosed to newsmen that Mohammed was being investigated for publishing defamatory report concerning a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bauchi. It followed a petition by Mr. Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a member of the House of Representatives representing Bauchi Federal Constituency.
The Bauchi State Magistrates Court, presided over by Magistrate Babe Sekoni Abdulfatai, on June 29, granted bail to both Haruna and Idris in the sum of N100,000 bail bond each and to provide one surety each in like sum.
The International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria called for the withdrawal of the ‘vexatious’ charges against the journalists, following that their arrest, detention and subsequent arraignment before a magistrate court.
IPI disclosed that the journalists claimed that they were physically assaulted while they were in detention.
It noted with concern that the offences of criminal conspiracy, defamation of character and cyber stalking with which the journalists were charged showed that the police were using bogus crimes with which to continue the harassment and intimidation of the journalists.
IPI Nigeria in a statement by its Secretary, Ahmed I. Shekarau, condemned the practice of using the police by civilians to harass and intimidate journalists, advising that “anyone who is aggrieved by any news item published by WikkiTimes should seek redress in court instead of using the police or other security agents to harass the journalists.
The statement said “IPI Nigeria demands the withdrawal and discontinuation of the vexatious charges filed against the two journalists with immediate effect”. It asked the Inspector-General of Police to call the Bauchi State Police Command to order.