By Nwafor Okafor
The South-East zone of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has condemned the arrest and detention of an Abuja based journalist, Ekenna Ezenekwe.
The New National Star had reported that Ezenekwe, the publisher of 247UREPORTS online media out
was arrested by plain clothes policemen in Abuja on Tuesday, insisting that he must disclose the source of his information over a story he published about a former Chief of Staff of the ex-governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano, Mr Primus Odili.
Reacting to the development on Thursday in a statement circulated to journalists in Awka, the Anambra State capital, the South-East CLO led by Comrade Aloysius Attah asked the police to release him on bail and charge him to court if they had a case against him.
He called on personnel of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure utmost respect for the citizen’s rights, stickler for professionalism and take actions within the ambit of the law in handling citizens’ matters.
CLO’s statement read partly,”Ezenekwe, Anambra-born journalist and publisher of 247UREPORTS (www.247ureports.com) was reportedly arrested by the police in Abuja on Tuesday 06/07/2022 at the instance of the former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. Primus Odili.
“Details already in the public domain stated that the media practitioner was whisked away in a commando style by some plain clothed policemen who refused to disclose to him, reasons behind his arrest before taking him to the police headquarters at Louis Edet House, Area II, Abuja.
“He was later transferred to Maitama police station Abuja where he spent the night after he was then informed of a petition against him from Chief Primus Odili over a ‘libellous’ publication, he (Ezenekwe) wrote and published on 13th May, this year.
“The story also making the rounds said Ezenekwe is being forced by the police on (Odili’s instruction) to disclose his sources of information and also mention the names of the people behind the story he wrote or else he will continue to remain in detention.
‘It was also reported that Ezenekwe has been sick before his arrest while he has been denied access to his medication and has been reportedly subjected to torture, intimidation and torment.
“While the CLO will not delve into the impropriety or otherwise of Ezenekwe’s conduct in his media practice or in the said ‘libellous’ publication , we call on the police to resist the temptation of becoming the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in this matter.
“No journalist worth his onions can be forced to disclose his source of information and by the provisions of the law, Ezenekwe remains innocent of all accusations levelled against him until proven otherwise.The presumption of innocence is a constitutional right of every person as provided in section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“If there are prima facie evidence against Ezenekwe before the police, the law enforcement agents should not engage in trial by ordeal or resort to self help in order to impress whoever briefed them.The right of detainees while in custody must be maintained to the maximum by the police and the police is mandated by law to not only give Ezenekwe unfettered access to his medication and his lawyers but also ensure that they release him on bail timeously and continue their investigation with a resort to the law courts for adjudication if need be.”
Attah reminded the police that“Arrest, detention or imprisonment shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorised for that purpose”, adding “No person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No circumstance whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
He said,”The police while handling Ikenna Ezenekwe’s matter should bear in mind the expression of his inalienable right to freedom of expression as a journalist contained in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) .
“The right to freedom of expression is also contained in chapter IV section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and other International Human Rights Instruments which Nigeria is a party.
“While the CLO is also aware that this right to freedom of expression is not absolute and also comes with consequences if abused, we still urge the police to refrain from any arbitrariness while handling this matter.
“We therefore call on the police to release Ikenna Ezenekwe on bail without further delay while the matter takes its normal route in law and course of justice for all parties in the matter- Justice for the accused, justice for the accuser and justice for the society at large.”