The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has denounced the arrest of Haruna Muhammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes, while he was covering the 2023 General elections in Duguri, Bauchi State. Mr Muhammed is currently being held at the Police Headquarters in Bauchi State, and the CWPPF is calling for his immediate release.
According to Yakubu Mohammed, the Editor of WikkiTimes, Mr Haruna was detained shortly after he and other reporters interviewed Governor Bala Mohammed in the governor’s hometown of Duguri.
In the course of covering the elections, Mr Haruna encountered women who were protesting about submitting CVs but were not employed. While interviewing these women who began to agitate that they would not vote, some hoodlums, believed to be supporters of the governor, attempted to lynch Mr Haruna, and he was subsequently taken into police custody.
Initially, the police claimed that Mr Haruna was taken into custody for his own safety, but they now insist that he can only be released by the order of the governor.
Mr Haruna has been accused of sending a video of the women protesting to the opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution gives the press, radio, television, and other agencies of the mass media the right to “uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people” at all times, including during elections.
Similarly, Dayo Aiyetan, the Executive Director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, was assaulted while recording irregularities at Agwai Fulani Town Hall in Gwagwalada, Federal Capital Territory.
There are clear indications that those responsible for safeguarding this right are now major perpetrators.
It is crucial to note that press freedom is sacrosanct to this democracy, and everyone, including state/non-state actors, should allow its elements to work without any hindrance. Therefore, the CWPPF condemns the arrest of Mr Haruna Muhammed and the harassment of Mr Aiyetan.
We call for Mr Haruna’s immediate release to enable him to carry out his journalistic duty.
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CWPPF shall take every legal step to hold to account anyone whose action or inaction leads to the violation of the rights of any journalist during and beyond these elections.
The Coalition also urged Nigerian security to take all possible preventive and protection measures for the physical safety of journalists and media workers and to provide them with adequate support where necessary.