Daily Trust: closure of Abuja, Maiduguri offices; Journalist arrested

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The Abuja and Maiduguri Daily Trust offices were yesterday invaded and closed by the military and the Northern Regional Editor, Uthman Abubakar and  a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab were arrested.

According to report, the armed military invaded the premises and arrested the journalists as well requested to see the political Editor, Hamza Idris whose byline has appeared in various major exclusives and investigative reports.

However, the reason for the invasion has not been explicitly known as it is noted that the Daily Trust on Sunday published a strong editorial and news reports on security challenges in Northern Nigeria.

The Editorial with the title: “FG is Running Out of Excuses,” emphasized on some of the humanitarian challenges in the North-East and the efforts of the military in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency.

The Editorial noted out that the Borno community leaders at an emergency meeting of security agencies called upon by Governor Kashim Shettima and expressed fears that insurgents could push on from Baga, overrun Monguno and move on to Maiduguri.

The Editorial further recognized the military’s successes in warding off three attacks on Monguno with Air Force raids that brought to an end the insurgents in their tracks and killed many terrorists.

The Editorial nevertheless asked some hard questions and offered suggestions. It stated thus: “From all indications there is no multinational force in the Lake Chad region, and we must ask why it is that Chadians, Nigeriens and Cameroonians do not seem to be around anymore? “We, however, commend the Niger Republic forces that last week killed 200 Boko Haram terrorists in their south eastern Diffa Region.

Some of the lead stories include: “Military Prepares Massive Operation to Retake Baga, Others,” “Zamfara Bandits May Have Link with Boko Haram -Defence Minister,” amongst others.

However, a senior editorial staff of the organization confirmed the military assault on the media establishment saying that staff had been ordered out of the premises, laptops and computers seized and operations halted. No reason, he said, was given for the action.

Nigerian soldiers at the Daily Trust Newspaper Abuja office during their invasion

At press time, the newspaper said the whereabouts of its arrested staff remained unknown after armed Nigerian security agents invaded the office and closed it.

Editor-in-Chief of Daily Trust, Mr Dan Ali confirmed the development but added that “Government officials were trying to resolve the matter.”

Mr. Dan Ali also said “the military are not happy with our reporting of the Baga attacks by Boko Haram and are just using today’s story as an excuse to clamp down on the newspaper.”

Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo in his reaction to the development urged the military authorities to release the journalists immediately.

He said: ‘’Immediately we got the report about what happened in Maiduguri, we quickly sent a delegation to the military barrack in Maiduguri to find out what really happened. Our delegation could not get across to those in-charge there.

“We also tried to get the Chief of Army Staff and the officer in-charge of Public Affairs but we are yet to get any response from them on why they have taken such action. But whatever the case may be, we want to urgently call on the military to release the journalists that were arrested. Journalists are not enemies of democracy rather they are the conscience of the society. Clamping down on journalists is unacceptable and we call the military authority to release them.’’

Others who reacted are the International Press Centre, IPC, Lagos-Nigeria, Senior Special Assistant to the president on Media and Publicity.

 IPC, Lagos Nigeria in a statement by its Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said: ‘’We  condemn in strong terms, the forceful closure of Daily Trust Newspapers’ head office in Abuja and the organisation’s Maiduguri office by military personnel.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu twitted on Daily Trust’s invasion by the Army: ‘The Federal Government has directed the military to vacate the premises of Daily Trust and the order has been complied with. Issues between the military and the newspaper as they affect the coverage of the war in the Northeast will be resolved through dialogue.

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