Nigerian military authorities on Tuesday confined two Al-Jazeera journalists to their hotel room and have forbidden them from leaving, according to a statement published on Wednesday by the Nigerian Defense Headquarters and both journalists who spoke to CPJ. The journalists were covering a story on military activities in the area as part of Al-Jazeera’s broader election coverage, the broadcaster said.
“Nigerian authorities and the military should understand that the credibility of the election is dependent in large part on the media, both local and foreign, being allowed to report freely,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative. “We call on the military to release Ahmed Idris and Mustafa Ali from their hotel, return their camera, and allow every journalist the freedom to document the electoral process before, during, and after the vote.”
Ahmed Idris, a correspondent for the Qatari-based broadcaster, told CPJ by phone Wednesday that on Tuesday morning soldiers told him and his colleague, Mustafa Ali, a cameraman, that they were under orders to forbid the two from leaving the hotel in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Idris told CPJ that when he attempted to leave later on Tuesday, a soldier stopped him. The journalists, both Nigerian nationals, are staying at the Satus Hotel in Maiduguri, Borno state, where they have stayed before, the hotel manager told CPJ. The soldiers also confiscated the journalists’ camera, Idris said.
Idris told CPJ that foreign journalists visiting the area often stay at Satus Hotel, but he and Ali were the only journalists reporting for a foreign outlet who were there at the time. Several journalists, mostly local, have been reporting from Yobe, Borno, and other states in northeastern Nigeria, where military operations against the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram are ongoing, according to several journalists including Abba Karami, Borno state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, who spoke to CPJ.
The Nigerian Defense Headquarters’s statement said the journalists had been restrained in the hotel for loitering “without any protection, accreditation or due clearance” in an area where military operations were ongoing. The statement said the two journalists had been “moving around various locations,” including unspecified “restricted” areas in Yobe and Borno states.
The statement also said, “It will be recalled that foreign journalists have earlier been cautioned against unauthorised and unprotected movements around the military operations area. This warning is hereby reiterated until formally reversed or lifted.”
Chris Olukolade, spokesman for the national military, did not respond to CPJ’s calls, text message, or email seeking clarification for the situation. The Nigerian military has consistently declined CPJ’s written and face-to-face requests to discuss its relationship with the press.
Source: Committee to Protect Journalists