MRA Condemns Police Harassment of Journalists, Calls on President Tinubu to Safeguard Media Freedom

Oru Leonard 

Media Rights Agenda (MRA), has today condemned recent acts of harassment and intimidation of journalists and media organizations by the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCC) over their reporting and called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to take urgent measures to safeguard media freedom and terminate the abuse of the Police and the Cybercrimes Act by powerful political figures and rich individuals to hound journalists performing their constitutional duties.

Citing a police invitation to Mr. Nurudeen Yahaya Akewushola, a reporter with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and the organization’s “Managing Directors” over a purported investigation into a case of alleged cyberstalking and defamation of character as the latest example of this trend, MRA said unless President Tinubu approves of and condones these Police abuses and misuse of the Law to harass journalists, he should be extremely concerned about the unflattering record they have created for him in just one year in office.

The Police invitation to the ICIR, dated April 16, 2024, but delivered to the organization on Wednesday, May 15, demanded the presence of Mr. Akewushola and the ICIR managing directors at the NPF-NCC in Abuja on Wednesday, April 24, to discuss a purported case of cyberstalking and defamation of character in which, according to NPF-NCC, Mr. Akewushola “featured prominently”.

In a statement condemning the actions of the Police, MRA’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, said: “MRA notes with alarm the troubling pattern of harassment and intimidation faced by journalists in Nigeria, particularly through the misuse of the Cybercrimes Act. We are particularly disturbed by the upsurge in this deplorable Police practice under the Administration of President Tinubu, a man who owns multiple media organizations and built his political career on a history of democratic struggle.”

Noting ICIR’s concerns that the Police invitation may be linked to Mr. Akewushola’s investigative reporting, which uncovered allegations of corruption involving former Inspectors General of Police, Mr. Adewale said such actions by the Police to shield former heads of the Force from scrutiny constitute an odious abuse of power.

He added that MRA was concerned, based on a pattern established by the Police in previous cases where it has invited journalists for questioning, that their intention is to detain Mr. Akewushola as punishment for his investigative reporting and subsequently release him on bail indefinitely since he is being invited over an alleged investigation into a purported offence that has been abolished, to the knowledge of the Police, in the recent amendment to the Cybercrimes Act and he could therefore not be prosecuted under any circumstance for an alleged offence that does not exist in Law.

Mr. Adewale pointed out as further evidence of the lack of fairness or due process in the actions of the Police the fact that it failed to provide Mr. Akewushola and the ICIR a copy of the petition it is supposed to be investigating or any details regarding the allegations against them and yet pretends that it is giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

He called on President Tinubu to instruct the Police to desist from the misuse of the Cybercrimes Act to suppress journalistic freedom, harass or intimidate journalists and the media, stressing that “a free and independent press is essential to the effective functioning of any democratic system of government.”

(MRA Media Center)

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