HURIWA condemns detention of reporters by Abuja court, tasks NBA, NJC to probe assault

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) on Tuesday, condemned the harassment of six judiciary journalists at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama today. HURIWA described the action of the judge who ordered the illegal kidnap of the Judiciary journalists and their temporary detention within the Court’s facility as an affront to Section 22 of the 1999 constitution which grants journalists the legal obligations to monitor the activities of all arms of government as the forth estate of the realm and the conscience of the nation. HURIWA said the judge is authoritarian and out of tune with democratic ethos and principles which permits for fundamental human rights.

HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, described what happened at the court as a breach of democratic tenets and an affront on the freedom of the press.

According to reports, Wumi Obabori of the African Independent Television, Godwin Tsa of the Sun Newspapers, Ikechukwu Nnochiri of Vanguard Newspapers, Austin Okezie of Raypower FM and a veteran journalist, Charles Ozoemena, were all harassed by policemen at the court today.

The phones of the reporters were seized and photos and videos were deleted on the order of the presiding judge, Justice Chizoba Orji.

The judge also detained the journalists for hours over what she called unlawful coverage of her court proceedings, which was false and rightly denied by the reporters who were granted access to the court and allowed to take photos and videos when the court is not in session.

According to the reporters, they took short videos and some photos when the court was not in session and there was nothing illegal about their actions.

Commenting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The harassment and the detention of the six reporters by Justice Chizoba Orji is absolutely illegal and against democratic principles and freedom of the press.

“It is unfortunate that despite the fact that the reporters did their job when the court was not in session, the judge subjected them such an assault.

“HURIWA takes exception to a situation where the judiciary has become an arm of the executive and to keep deploying aggressive security agents to oppress and victimize the gentlemen of the press who expose the rots in the justice system to the world. “What is that judge hiding? The Nigerian bar Association and the National Judicial Council should focus their attention on that judge who is in mortal apprehension of the presence of the media in her court because only the guilty are afraid.”

“HURIWA is shocked that the court is not in any way different from the streets where policemen, soldiers, and men of the Department of State Services brutalise journalists for merely doing their job.

“The Abuja incident of Tuesday is sadly not the first. Recall that last week, operatives of the Osun State Police Command shot a journalist with The Nation newspaper, in the state, Toba Adedeji, who was covering a protest by some youths under Olaiya bridge in Osogbo but the police neither took responsibility for the shooting by its officials nor apologise in a statement issued 24 hours after the incident.

“Also, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Adamu, on Monday, used policemen at his behest to harass and drive away journalists from the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.

“On several occasions, the police, army and the DSS have used their operatives to beat and shoot at journalists covering the court proceedings of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

“The bullying and harassment of journalists must stop. Justice Chizoba Orji must apologise to the brutalised journalists immediately. The Nigerian Bar Association must take this matter up and put an end to the impunity and the nonsense which is becoming unbecoming of the legal profession. There is no hope for Nigerians if the court takes up the aggressiveness of the aggressors to oppress the oppressed.”

Emmanuel Onwubiko
June 7, 2022

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