The Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) expresses its deep concern following the arrest of the Nigerian journalist and publisher of WikkiTimes Haruna Mohammed Salisu on February 25, 2023, while covering the election at Duguri, the hometown of Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Bala. It denounces this outrageous attack on constitutionally-enshrined press freedoms and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Salisu’s arrest and detention by the Bauchi State Police Command, which was carried out by the order of Governor Bala Mohammed, represents a serious assault on democracy and constitutionally-enshrined freedoms of expression in Nigeria and throughout the African continent.
On Saturday, February 25, 2023, Salisu and other journalists interviewed Governor Mohammed about the ongoing general election in the country. Shortly after the interview, Salisu observed a group of women protesting against the governor for breaking his promise to offer employment. He filmed the protest during which the women booed the governor and said they would not vote. Some people believed to be supporters of the governor attacked Salisu. They also reported Salisu to their principal, who ordered his security detail to arrest him.
Salisu has been kept in police custody at the Bauchi Police State Command for Public Incitement, WikkiTimes Editor Yakubu Mohammed told CCIJ. The police had earlier maintained that he was taken away for his own safety but refused to release him until the governor gives an order. “He has spent nearly 48 hours in detention and the police would not release him until the governor’s directive,” Yakubu said.
The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) in Nigeria has condemned the arrest of Salisu and demanded his swift release, but the police have not responded to that call. The CCIJ has contacted Police Public Relations Officer Ahmad Wakili, who insisted that we contact Mukhtar Gidado, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Bala. Gidado has neither answered his call nor responded to our messages.
A model of professionalism with a strong reputation, Salisu has worked successfully with organizations like the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, the Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development, and CCIJ.
CCIJ and its members deplore the unjust arrest and detention inflicted on one of its members, which, in addition to representing a serious assault on the freedom of speech, constitutes a significant hardship to his family. CCIJ further expresses its concern at the deterioration of press freedom in Nigeria in recent years. We call on Nigerian authorities to respect the freedoms of expression and of the press guaranteed by the country’s constitution and laws, as well as the international agreements to which Nigeria has willingly subscribed.
Jeff Kelly Lowenstein
Founder and Executive Director, CCIJ