PDP decries alleged harassment, intimidation of journalists in Kwara
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has strongly condemned the continued harassment and detention of two journalists through alleged use of Kwara government instruments.
The party expressed concern over the recent detention of two journalists, Abdulrazaq Aiyelabegan Babatunde and Lukman Oluwatoyin Bolakale, who are publishers of Just Events Online and Satcom Media respectively.
This was contained in a statement issued by Olusegun Olusola Adewara (Sholyment), Kwara State Publicity Secretary, PDP, over the weekend.
‘’It is disheartening that in a democratic society, journalists are being subjected to such intimidation and harassment. Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of any vibrant democracy, and journalists must be allowed to carry out their duties without fear of reprisals,’’ the statement said.
SOLACEBASE gathered that the two journalists have been under incarceration at the Kwara State Police Command since September 11 over infighting within the ranks of the state government.
It was further gathered that the detention is at the behest of a petition written against the duo by the immediate past Principal Private Secretary (PSS) to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq – Ms Monsurah Jumoke Gafar alleging defamation of character.
The contentious story titled “Gov Abdulrazaq’s Camp Kicks Against Reappointment of Jumoke Gafar” was extracted from a press release signed by one Chief Rotimi Adebowale which was duly accredited.
The journalists were invited via a phone call by one Sikiru Adedayo of the Anti-Kidnapping and Cultism unit of the Kwara State Police Command, an invitation which they honored within 2 hours.
They were questioned about the veracity and source of the report, and they promptly availed them of the source of the press release.
However, having availed the police of the details, including the phone number and position of the source, who is a senior government official, the police are yet to effect arrest, while the journalists remain in police custody.
According to the statement, ‘’The two journalists were arraigned for cyberstalking and conspiracy at a Kwara State Revenue Court presided over by Magistrate A. A. Ajia 72 hours after providing details of the source, instead of the police granting them bail, apprehending the offender, and continuing their potential investigation. They were then remanded for 21 days in police custody.’’
‘’The PDP emphasizes the importance of press freedom in holding the government accountable and ensuring transparency in governance. Journalists play a critical role in informing the public, upholding democratic values, and providing a platform for diverse voices and perspectives. Silencing journalists is an attack on the freedom of expression, which is a cornerstone of any democratic society.’’
‘’We call on the Kwara State government to immediately release Babatunde and Bolakale and desist from further harassment, intimidation of journalists, and bullying everybody to submission. We urge the government to respect the rights of journalists to carry out their work without fear of retribution or unlawful detention.’’
‘’Furthermore, we call on the Kwara State government to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and ensure that those responsible for this infringement of press freedom are held accountable.’’
‘’The PDP stands in solidarity with Babatunde, Bolakale, and all journalists who have been unjustly targeted for simply doing their jobs. We will continue to advocate for press freedom, defend the rights of journalists, and work towards creating an enabling environment for the media to thrive without undue interference.’’
Kwara PDP thereafter urged Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazak-led administration to curb the excesses of his officials.
‘’Conclusively, the Kwara State PDP remains committed to upholding democratic principles, ensuring the protection of the rights of journalists, and holding the government accountable. We call on all stakeholders, civil society organizations, and the international community to join us in condemning these acts of harassment and intimidation against journalists. Together, we can safeguard press freedom and strengthen our democracy.’’