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Monday, July 15, 2024

Police insist Newslodgejournalist must appear for story yet to be published

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The police have insisted that a PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Emmanuel Agbo, must appear for questioning over a story he is working on and has not yet published.

The Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Nigerian Police in Abuja had on Monday summoned Agbo to appear on Wednesday.

A lawyer from the PREMIUM TIMES legal team attended the police summons on behalf of Mr. Agbo at the IRT office in Guzape, Abuja, on Wednesday.

During Wednesday’s visit to the IRT office, our lawyer met with the police officer in charge of the case, Ezemba Ezekiel, who insisted that Mr. Agbo must appear in person.

The police officer did not give any specific date for the appointment, but said Agbo must appear at a convenient time to reveal the details and sources of the documents he is using for his planned report on a land dispute involving a real estate developer, Homadils Realty Limited.

The police invitation to Agbo, which was widely reported on various media platforms on Tuesday, has been widely condemned as a ridiculous criminalization of journalism.

Mr. Agbo’s only mistake was doing what journalism ethics requires: trying to be fair to all parties in asking for reactions to allegations raised in a dispute that is the focus of his yet-to-be-published story.

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The PREMIUM TIMES journalist received a police invitation letter from Mr. Ezekiel through Whatsapp on Monday. The letter asked Mr Agbo to report to the IRT office before 2pm on Wednesday, and barely revealed that the police were investigating a petition in which his name appeared.

PREMIUM TIMES, through its Editor-in-Chief, Idris Akinbajo, quickly wrote to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, IRT, from where the invitation letter emerged. The response to the invitation, delivered to the IRT office on Tuesday, assured the police team of the newspaper’s readiness to assist in any investigation they were carrying out. He also requested details of the allegations against Mr Agbo, to enable him to gather the necessary documents to prepare for his appearance on Wednesday.

The police unit has yet to formally respond to our letter.

But despite this, the newspaper sent its lawyer to attend the police appointment on Wednesday.

For the appointment scheduled for 2 p.m., our lawyer arrived at the IRT office already at noon.

Our legal team met with the officer in charge of the case, Mr. Ezekiel, and asked him to provide details of the allegations against Mr. Agbo, but to no avail.

Invitation about a story yet to be published

Although the police refused to reveal the details of the allegations against Agbo, they suggested that the invitation was instigated by a real estate developer, Homadils Realty Limited.

Homadils and their promoters are parties to a dispute over land in Guzape, a prime area of ​​Abuja, which Agbo is investigating for a yet-to-be-published article.

In March this year, Agbo contacted Homadils CEO Bilkisu Aliu to seek his response to allegations leveled against her by a family also claiming the same disputed land.

The PREMIUM TIMES reporter spoke to Ms Aliu on the phone and exchanged messages with her on WhatsApp, where she shared her reactions to the allegations leveled against her by the family. The interviews, both by phone and through Whatsapp messages, went smoothly.

Agbo was still gathering relevant data and verifying claims and counterclaims about the case and had not yet published his report when Ezekiel of the IRT police unit in Abuja called the journalist on May 30, inviting him for questioning.

“I am Ezemba Ezekiel from the Intelligence Response Team. I call you on behalf of Homadils. You are expected to come to our office at the Guzape slaughterhouse to clarify a request,” said the caller, apparently from the IRT.

Agbo would later ask Ezekiel to formalize the invitation by writing to him through PREMIUM TIMES.

Following this request, Ezekiel on Monday sent a letter of invitation dated May 31 to Agbo via WhatsApp.

Police interested in source of planned story

Honoring the invitation of the police on Wednesday, a lawyer from the PREMIUM TIMES legal team met Mr. Ezekiel at the IRT office in Guzape, Abuja.

The police officer told the lawyer that Agbo was invited based on his interview with the CEO of Homadils, Mrs Aliu.

He told our lawyer that the police were interested in some documents that Mr Agbo referred to during his interview with the property developer.

According to him, the police wanted Agbo to confirm the documents and how he obtained them. Basically, they want the journalist to reveal the source of his information, an ethical violation in journalism.

Ezekiel also approached PREMIUM TIMES Editor-in-Chief Akinbajo on Thursday to reaffirm the same.

The police officer maintained that he still wanted Mr. Agob to come forward with the documents in a timely manner.

The increasing repression of journalism by the police

Repression and criminalization of journalism through harassment, arrests and detentions by police have been increasing recently. The police’s invitation to Mr Agbo is just the latest example.

Police recently detained the executive director of the International Center for Investigative Journalism (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan, and an investigative journalist for the platform, Nurudeen Akewushola, for more than nine hours.

Both journalists complied with the police’s invitation and arrived at the NPF-NCCC office at noon on Tuesday, but were detained and released only after 9 pm. The newspaper had raised the alarm and journalists and activists immediately took to social media to rebuke the police and call out. for the immediate release of the journalists.

READ ALSO: Police invite PREMIUM TIMES journalist for yet-to-be-published story

Akewushola said the police claimed to have received a petition in which he and the ICIR were accused of “cyberbullying and defamation”, a popular accusation that Nigerian authorities have used to repress journalists and activists.

In May, police kidnapped a Foundation for Investigative Journalism journalist, Daniel Ojukwu, and denied him access to his family and employer for days. He was later flown to Abuja after spending days in custody in Lagos. He regained his freedom after pressure from local and international media.

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