Two reporters from a Hausa-language newspaper were rounded up by armed security agents early Monday and are currently being held in detention. No reason was given for the arrest but sources say it is linked to the publication of a piece they co-wrote titled “Atrocities of JTF in Potiskum.”
Some 40 armed officers conducted the pre-dawn raid on the homes of Aliyu Saleh, a reporter with Al-Mizan, a weekly Hausa-language paper, and Musa Muhammad Awwal, the paper’s editor. The two live in Rigasa in Kaduna, news reports say.
The agents confiscated the writers’ cell phones and money and briefly detained the journalists’ wives, it was also reported.
The N.Y.-based Committee to Protect Journalists spoke with Yusuf Idris, Kaduna state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. Idris said the two reporters were being held at the headquarters of the State Security Service in Abuja.
CPJ attempted to verify the facts in the case but Marilyn Ogar, spokesman for the security service, did not immediately respond to CPJ's inquiries.
Later on Monday, security agents raided the home of Al-Mizan Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Musa, who was not on the premises at the time, according to the online daily Premium Times. Musa has since fled into hiding, news reports said.
The published story claimed that the Nigerian federal government's Joint Task Force, the special unit combating the insurgency of militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, had allegedly abducted 84 individuals in the northern state of Yobe.
Local journalists told CPJ that the story included pictures of the abducted individuals, who were still missing, and accounts from their family members.
In October, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the JTF of abusive detention practices, according to news reports. Nigerian security forces have denied the allegations.
CPJ’s Africa Advocacy Coordinator, Mohamed Keita, declared: "We condemn the arrests of Aliyu Saleh and Musa Muhammad Awwal, along with the raid at Ibrahim Musa's home, which appear designed to silence coverage of alleged abuses by Nigeria's security agencies... We demand the immediate release of these journalists and a halt to the security agencies' efforts to intimidate the press. National leaders must make it clear that security agents are not above the law."
The Nigeria Union of Journalists issued a statement declaring that the union views this clandestine operation as primitive and unwarranted. It added: “There are more civilised and acceptable standards of carrying out investigations. This method of attacking journalists and beating up their wives in their homes before they are taken away is unacceptable.”
The NUJ urged the security agencies “to produce the two journalists unharmed and adopt acceptable standards of investigating alleged crimes,” pointing out that “the right and proper thing to do is to take the matter to court for subsequent action.”