- Freelance American filmmaker and journalist Andrew Berends and his translator, Nigerian Samuel George, remained in the custody of Nigerian state security services in Port Harcourt yesterday, after being arrested August 31 and transferred to State Security Services, local journalists told CPJ.
Berends was released temporarily after 36 hours in detention without being charged while George remained in custody, Berends wrote in an e-mail to friends and colleagues. He said he was accused of espionage and that his passport and equipment were confiscated.
Berends, an award-winning filmmaker, legally entered Nigeria in April to complete a documentary called "Delta Boys," sponsored by the New York-based Tribeca Film Institute, about the region's oil conflict. He was ordered to return to the security offices at 9 a.m. this morning, which he did.
"Authorities continue to arrest journalists in the Niger Delta area in order to block media coverage of the conflict," said Tom Rhodes, CPJ's Africa program coordinator. "We call on the government to abandon these repressive tactics, which deprive the world of vital information about the conflict in the Niger Delta. We urge the Nigerian authorities to drop the case against Andrew Berends and Samuel George and to return Berends' passport immediately."
A Niger Delta military spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, said the military arrested Berends for filming a Nigerian military deployment without clearance.
Berends is the second American filmmaker arrested this year by the Nigerian military in the region. The Nigerian military arrested the crew of Sweet Crude" along the Niger Delta River on April 12 and held them for a week by state security in Abuja. This is the fourth time journalists and media workers have been arrested in the Niger Delta on unsubstantiated charges since 2005, according to CPJ research.
In a separate development, state television company National Television Authority reporter Felix Opute was also detained today by military authorities while attending a Niger Delta community meeting. Local leaders were meeting to discuss ways of enforcing a court order that bans the practice of lighting oil fires in residential areas, local journalists told CPJ.
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