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Nigerian military raids newspaper offices and arrests journalists

Nigeria’s security forces conducted a raid on the headquarters and three offices of the country’s Daily Trust newspaper in Maiduguri on Sunday, arresting two journalists, and seizing their laptops and mobile phones. 

Uthman Abubakar, the north east regional editor and Ibrahim Sawab were both arrested during the raid. The Daily Trust is one of Nigeria’s largest newspapers. Sawab was released later that day, but Abubakhar remains in military custody with his location unknown. 

Armed soldiers also raided the newspaper’s main office in Abuja, where an operations staff member was also arrested. Soldiers ordered journalists to evacuate the building and proceeded to ransack the newsroom and seize several computers. The staff member was released later that day. 

The raids were reportedly in response to an article published that day about military preparation to take over the town of Baga and other communities which Boko Haram had captured a week before, a source told AFP. An editorial published in the paper also criticised the military for its failure to tackle the Islamist group Boko Haram, after a series of lost battles. A breakaway faction of the group, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), has also claimed responsibility for several attacks on Nigerian military bases in recent months.

On Monday, the military released a statement claiming that the raids were carried out because they wanted to question the staff at the Daily Trust newspaper about the article published on 6th January. They believed that the publication had divulged classified military information and thus undermined national security. 

The military added that they would “not tolerate a situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.”

Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang said, “Nigeria’s government should ensure that the military takes no further actions to intimidate or harass journalists anywhere in the country.”

In June 2014, soldiers seized newspapers and delivery vans of the Daily Trust and three other papers for depicting the military in a negative light. 

See more from Al Jazeera here, the New York Times here and HRW here.



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