PUBLISHER of online newspaper, Wikki Times, Haruna Mohammed, was detained after honouring an invitation by officials of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) of the Bauchi State Police Command on Monday.
He was detained alongside a reporter, Idris Kamal, over a report on the death of a politician in Bauchi State.
The ICIR gathered that after writing their statements at the SCIID, Mohammed was placed in a cell along with Kamal. It was learnt that the journalists were brutalised by other inmates in the cell.
Despite the presence of their lawyers, Mohammed and Kamal were detained for at least 10 hours before they were released.
The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of the case, Bilyaminu, however, told The ICIR that Mohammed is being investigated for publishing defamatory report concerning a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bauchi.
The IPO denied reports that the journalists were beaten up in detention.
“Yes we are investigating the issue. They published something defamatory about the late APC chieftain here in Bauchi. They came in today, we are still trying to investigate the matter, I don’t know what you mean by rough-handled,” he said on Monday.
The ICIR also reached out to Ahmed Wakil, spokesman of the Bauchi State Police Command, on Monday. He promised to look into the matter and effect the immediate release of the journalists.
“I am presently not in the office, but I am heading back now. If this is true I will do everything possible to see that he is released. I will take up the matter,” he said.
Wakil reached out to The ICIR about an hour later saying that Mohammed would be released in a matter of minutes and the journalists regained freedom shortly after. They were, however, asked to return on Tuesday for further interrogation.
Following their return on Tuesday, June 28, the journalists were arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Bauchi where they were charged with criminal conspiracy, defamation of character and cyber stalking.
The court remanded them in custody till Wednesday, June 29.
The case is connected to a report published by Wikki Times on the sudden death of the APC chairman in the Bauchi Local Government Area of the state on May 18.
According to the report, the late APC Chairman, Hussaini Musa Gwaba, received series of threats before his death.
Wikki Times reported that Gwaba was considered as a threat by an APC member of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, representing Bauchi Federal Constituency.
Abdullahi eventually filed a petition which led to the arrest and detention of the journalists.
Meanwhile, the International Press Centre (IPC) condemned the harassment and detention of the journalists in a statement released on Tuesday.
The IPC expressed concern over the incident and urged the police to desist from being used as objects of oppression.
“Since the petitioner alleged defamation, the Police should have in the first instance advised him to seek legal redress instead of illegally detaining the journalists for 10 hours on Monday, June 27, 2022 and subjecting them to physical and mental harassment in the process”, IPC Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade, said in the statement.
Heurged the police to ensure the safety of the journalists, adding that the rule of law regarding petitions should also apply with media professionals as with other citizens.