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Nigeria: Journalist Arrested, Forced to Delete Photographs

In the morning of January 25, 2017, Ms Ujunwa Atueyi, a journalist with the privately-owned daily, ‘The Guardian, was arrested, detained for hours in a vehicle and forced to delete pictures she had taken of a raid on motorists at a Lagos bus stop by a police taskforce and city environment officers.

A seven-member team of policemen and officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Unit conducted an operation to clear the Cele Bus Stop, along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

Atueyi who was on a beat at the station, captured the chaotic scene of fleeing motorists, passengers and passers-by on her mobile phone. Atueyi also captured one young man who was being brutalized by members of the taskforce on suspicion of having given a tip-off about the operation to the motorists. The reporter was arrested while taking pictures of the scene and was forced into a waiting Black Maria vehicle for interrogation.

The Guardian newspaper reported on its website that despite identifying herself as a journalist, Atueyi was driven away, together with two other people who were arrested. She was later transferred into a Toyota Hilux van by the team leader who interrogated her in an intimidating tone.

After, the interrogation, the team leader, whose name Atueyi did not know, she compelled her to delete the photographs she had taken and then collected and checked the phone to ensure that she had actually deleted them. Thereafter, he ordered the van driver to stop at Mile Two where he told the journalist: “Madam, you can come down here, we are sorry for the stress we caused you.” The van sped off after she alighted.

The journalist was performing her legitimate duty and so her arrest and detention by the members of the Lagos City taskforce was unwarranted. The MFWA therefore calls on the Lagos City authorities to investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators to book.

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