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Journalist arrested

(CPJ/IFEX) - CPJ is strongly protesting the arrest and continued detention
of journalist Jerry Needam, acting editor of the "Ogoni Star", a bimonthly
newspaper published by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People

On 11 October 1999, Rivers State police arrested Needam at his home in Port
Harcourt and detained him at a local branch of the State Intelligence and
Investigation Bureau. The arrest was in connection with a leaked police
document (Operational Order no. 13/99 of August 18, 1999) that MOSOP made
public on 16 September. The order laid out police plans to deal with an
expected surge in activity by ethnic Ijaw activists in the oil-producing
Niger Delta.

The police document classifies MOSOP as an "enemy force," along with other
"human rights groups and criminals of all descriptions." The report also
claims that Ijaw activists "intend to close down all oil installations and
force all expatriate staff to leave and stop work at all flow stations" - a
charge that the Ijaw groups have publicly denied. The report calls for an
army brigade to be put on red alert, and for 2,500 police to join private
guards employed by the oil companies.

Police have questioned Needam as to how MOSOP obtained the report, but the
journalist has not been formally charged or allowed to see a lawyer. And
although his health is deteriorating, Needam has so far been refused medical

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:
  • noting that Needam's detention is a clear violation of the
    internationally recognized right of journalists to seek, receive, and impart
    information and ideas of all kinds
  • recalling that these rights are guaranteed by Article 19 of the
    Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on
    Civil and Political Rights,
    and Article 9 of the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, to all of
    which the Republic of Nigeria is a signatory
  • noting that only two years ago, Nigeria had one of the world's worst
    freedom records, with seventeen journalists behind bars because of their
    work, and that under His Excellency's government, however, Nigerian
    journalists enjoy significant freedom to perform their professional duties
  • stating that for this reason, you are deeply troubled by the
    extra-judicial detention of Needam, which calls His Excellency's commitment
    to press freedom into question
  • strongly urging His Excellency to order his immediate release, in the
    absence of valid legal charges against Needam
  • also urging him to take appropriate measures to ensure that Niger Delta
    authorities respect the fundamental right of journalists to work without
    fear of reprisal

    Appeals To

    His Excellency President Olusegun Obasanjo
    State House, Abuja
    Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
    Fax: +234 9 523 2136

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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