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Uproar over arrests of journalists by Nigeria Police, OPAN condemns action

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The assault and arrest of the publisher and editor of online news outlet, Elombah.com  by the Nigerian police was met with widespread condemnation on Tuesday.

The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers’s has condemned the arrest of Mr Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah. The group also expressed concerns about the Buhari administration’s -imposed restrictions on the media and plot to intimidate and suppress press freedom in the country.

“OPAN views the assault on Elombah.com as part of a sustained plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to intimidate and suppress press freedom. We wish to remind this administration that we are in a democratic dispensation. The practice of using security agencies to harass journalists, especially those operating in the digital media must STOP.”

“We implore this administration to respect free speech and protect the fundamental rights of citizens, whilst also urging the judicial arm of government not to allow its judges and courts become a tool in the hands of dictators and oppressors, to legitimize their abuse and violation of human rights.

“Independent finding shows that the arrest was premised on an opinion article titled “ IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” written by Eboiwei Dickson, that was published on the website as well as dozens of other sites, which the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris found offensive, said OPAN president, Mr Austin Ogannah in a statement

The journalists were brutalized and arrested in the wee hours of New Year’s Day in their family home in Nnewi, Anambra State.

“The image of the country has been affected by this case. More pressure from the international community will come,” said a media advocacy group on Tuesday night.

“I awoke on New Year to the news that Nigeria’s security agents had snatched blogger Daniel Elombah and two or so of his siblings. There was little explanation for their arrest and detention beyond the alleged statement by the state agents that there were “orders from above”, said Okey Ndibe.

“That such Orwellian phraseology is still used to hound and harass Nigerians in the era of “nascent democracy” ought to disturb all who know the difference between freedom and serfdom. ”

“Since Obasanjo’s time as president—all the way to now—Nigeria has witnessed some form of repression masked as democracy. The incessant assaults inundate the lives of citizens, claw at their hearts, wear down their spirits, he said.

MEANWHILE, the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers, has strongly condemned the brazen arrest of the duo of Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah, the Publisher and Editor respectively, of United Kingdom based online news website, Elombah.com by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of the Nigeria Police Force on “Orders from Above.”

In a statement on Tuesday, signed by its President, Austyn Ogannah, who is also the publisher of THEWILL News Media, OPAN said, “Though the police has declined to publicly state why the journalists were brutalized and arrested in the wee hours of New Year’s Day in their family home in Nnewi, Anambra State, independent finding shows that the arrest was premised on an opinion article titled “ IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” written by Eboiwei Dickson, that was published on the website as well as dozens of other sites, which the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris found offensive.

“OPAN views the assault on Elombah.com as part of a sustained plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to intimidate and suppress press freedom. We wish to remind this administration that we are in a democratic dispensation. The practice of using security agencies to harass journalists, especially those operating in the digital media must STOP.

“We implore this administration to respect free speech and protect the fundamental rights of citizens, whilst also urging the judicial arm of government not to allow its judges and courts become a tool in the hands of dictators and oppressors, to legitimize their abuse and violation of human rights.”

Recalls that Tim and Daniel were arrested in a Gestapo-like raid and transported to Abuja, but the latter was released late in the night following sustained pressure on the Inspector General of Police and the Nigerian government by members of OPAN as well as bloggers, public affairs commentators, human rights and press freedom groups.

Tim was Tuesday brought before a magistrate court in Abuja by the police seeking an order to remand him in prison custody for a period of fourteen (14) days pending the completion of police investigation and filing a former charge, but the court only approved seven (7) days, setting the matter for hearing on January 9, 2018.

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