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» 17.11.2009 - Media warns legislators against enacting anti-media law
» 06.10.2009 - UNESCO chief condemns killing of Nigerian editor
» 12.05.2009 - Broadcasting commission suspends licence of private radio station
» 17.10.2008 - Nigerian journalist slained near his home
» 17.09.2008 - Nigeria TV station shut down
» 10.09.2008 - US filmmaker released in Nigeria
» 05.09.2008 - CPJ demands release of journalist and translator
» 03.09.2008 - Journalist and media worker detained in Nigeria

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New media-related arrests in Nigeria

afrol News, 27 January - Police in Nigeria again have arrested persons working in the independent media. While a newspaper publisher was arrested by the local police of Rivers State, several newspaper vendors were arrested by State Security Services (SSS) agents in Enugu State.

Last week, the Rivers State Police Command arrested Jerry Needam, publisher of the Port Harcourt-based weekly tabloid 'National Network', for publishing reports considered "negative" to Rivers State Police Commissioner Sylvester Araba.

Mr Needam, publisher of the newly established newspaper, was picked up at his office in Port Harcourt. Although the police did not provide formal reasons for his arrest, reports quoted a senior police officer as saying that the command was angered by a report in the newspaper portraying the commission in a bad light.

The 'National Network' was reporting on a state-sponsored annual pilgrimage to Israel, where both Mr Needam and the State Police Commissioner had participated. Mr Needam published a story on the front page of his newspaper reporting that the police commissioner "slumped while climbing Mount Sinai." The newspaper described Araba's collapse as "mysterious" since he had been certified as fit by doctors before embarking on the journey.

The newspaper also reported that a senior Rivers State Government House official also collapsed in Jerusalem, while many others engaged in amorous acts in the holy land. Prior to Mr Needam's arrest, the newspaper had run a promotion promising to publish "dirty deals" embarked upon by government officials while in Israel in the next edition.

At the same time, in Nigeria's south-eastern state of Enugu, four State Security Services (SSS) agents raided newsstands and arrested the state chairman of the Newspapers Vendors' Association of Nigeria, Clement Egbuche, and two newspaper vendors. The three were arrested for selling copies of the tabloid newspaper 'Eastern Pilot', which carried reports of the "emergence of a new Biafra nation".

Reports said the SSS officers ransacked the place and seized copies of the newspaper from vendor "Emeji". He was asked about its source and took the police to see "Chidinma", a female vendor. Both "Emeji" and "Chidinma" were then arrested. The security men forced the two vendors to take them to Mr Egbuche's office, alleged to be the distributor of the newspaper.

At the association's office, Mr Egbuche was arrested and handcuffed. After the security agents finished searching his office, they took him along with the two vendors to the SSS headquarters in Enugu, where the three were interrogated and later released.

Telling his experience after his release to the Lagos-based Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr Egbuche said vendors had not been told that it is an offence to sell any newspaper carrying a story about the Movement for the Advancement of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). He added that their business was to "sell news products to make ends meet." He alleged that one of the SSS officers had slapped one of his sales women before he was arrested.

An SSS official reportedly confirmed the incident, saying the agency considered 'Eastern Pilot' newspaper to be subversive. He justified the action saying, "because of the purported declaration of the independence of Biafra, on 20 January 2005, our men went to the field on routine checks."

- There, they intercepted this publication, which we consider very subversive, and demanded to know how it came about, the SSS official said. "In the process, we arrested three of the vendors. They were brought here and were released later, after interrogation," he added.

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