The International Press Institute (IPI), alongside global network of editors, media executives and practitioners, yesterday, called for the release of Premium Time’s Samuel Ogundipe on bail. The group also demanded that all charges against him be dropped, even as they condemned the practice of forcing journalists to reveal their sources.
The police arrested Ogundipe on August 14 after his newspaper, the Premium Times, published a report sent by the country’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The report detailed the actions of the former Director of Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) in relation to an incident in which SSS operatives blocked lawmakers from entering the National Assembly on August 7. The police, however, are demanding that Ogundipe reveal his sources for the IGP report.
According to IPI Executive Director, Barbara Trionfi, Premium Times, in a statement, revealed that Ogundipe was released yesterday morning after posting bail of N500, 000. “Ogundipe’s prosecution is a form of harassment against a journalist, who was carrying out his work professionally and in full respect of the Code of Ethics of the Nigerian Press Council. The confidentiality of sources is universally acknowledged, both as a duty and a right of journalists, as it is a necessary precondition for journalistic work.”
Sadly, arresting journalists and asking them to disclose their sources has become a pattern in Nigeria,” she said. In April 2013, two journalists of the Leadership Newspaper were detained for several days after they refused to disclose their sources. In March of this year, Tony Ezimakor, Abuja Bureau Chief of the Independent, was arrested and pressed to reveal his sources after he reported about the government paying ransom to Boko Haram for the release of kidnapped girls. He was later released without any charges.
“By arresting Ogundipe, the Nigerian government has also violated Article 66 of the Treaty of ECOWAS signed in Lagos in 1975, which requires member states to ensure respect for the rights of Journalists,” she said. In June of this year, President Buhari, while inaugurating the 67th IPI World Congress in Abuja, said, “good journalism promotes good governance,” adding that, in an environment where fake news dwarfs investigative reporting, good journalism matters.