Police Arrest FreshNEWS Publisher, Desmond Utomwen in Abuja

Desmond Utomwen…after he was released at the Police Friday

*Increasing incessant assault of journalists decried by CABSAJ

*MACPS takes case against Faru to Customs, EFCC

For the second time in a week, the overzealous Nigeria Police, has gone after journalists for performing their constitutional roles and responsibilities, with the arrest and release of FreshNEWS publisher, Desmond Utomwen on Friday morning. This is coming on the heels of the arrest of SaharaReporters publisher, Sowore in Lagos.

Information reaching www.gongnews.net on the possible grounds of the arrest of Utomwen indicates that FreshNEWS was investigating allegations that one Umar Faru, a serving officer in the Nigeria Customs Service had corruptly enriched himself from which he had built a house along Turaki road, Gadabiyu Gusau in Zamfara State among others.

Faru was said to have used two accounts with First Bank numbers 3034403649 and 3057435285 belonging to his wife, Maryam Sani Hassan, in the perpetration of his corrupt deeds.

He was officially contacted by the newspaper in the preservation of the principle of fair hearing. Instead of responding to the allegations, he got the pliable men of the FCIID to arrest Desmond Utomwen, the publisher of the online magazine Friday morning.

Faru was accusing the newspaper of criminal threat to life and property as well as criminal defamation of character.

Ugochukwu Ezekiel, Co-founder, Centre Against Brutality and Safety of Journalists in Africa (CABSAJ) said in a telephone interview that “any reasonable person will be wondering how one can be accused of criminal defamation of character for a report that has not been published and for which opportunity was duly given for fair hearing?”

According to Ezekiel, “one would have thought that the Police should have been smart to run away from criminals who employ them to do the dirty job of arresting journalists and messing up their image. Why can’t they sit down, look at the issue critically and even seek legal advise before proceeding to invade media houses to arrest journalists for doing their work.”

“He disclosed, “on this matter, we are certainly going to protest to the Inspector General of Police. We are not getting comfortable with the incessant overzealousness of the Police in indiscriminately being used to intimidate, arrest and sometime detain journalists for doing a Constitutionally guaranteed responsibility.”

However, the leadership of the Federal Capital Territory council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) were able to secure his release from the grip of the pliable police.

However, the Movement for Anti-Corruption in Public Service, led by Mrs. Adejoke Lawal, said, “we are going to take up this matter from here. We shall petition the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service to do their own internal investigation while we also approach the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the external investigation. We won’t let the matter just go like that. So he wants to use the proceeds of illegally acquired wealth to fight journalists?”


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