Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of online journalist Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, a US national, at the Muritala Muhammed international airport on his arrival from the United States on 28 October to visit his sick mother and attend to family matters.
He is currently being held at the headquarters of the internal intelligence service, the State Security Service (SSS) in the capital Aubuja. He is the second blogger to be arrested in Nigeria within a week.
Since the publication of ironic online photos featuring the son of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Sahara Reporters (http://www.saharareporters.com), the authorities have hardened their stance towards online publications.
Online journalist Jonathan Elendu (http://elendureports.com) was imprisoned for 11 days from 18 to 29 October because of articles posted on his website. He had returned to Abuja from his base in the United States to make two documentaries about the current situation in the country. On his release, he described his experience as the “worst of my life”.
The authorities confiscated his passport and his luggage. More than a week after his release he is still unable to return home. Considered as a “threat to the country’s internal security”, he risks arrest at any moment if he continues his online work.
“The authorities stepped up their surveillance of bloggers after the online publication of embarrassing photos online of the president’s son. The taboo surrounding the head of state, his family and his clan are powerful prohibitions, but which should have no place in a democracy and should certainly not be a matter for intelligence services. The only issue is the release of Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Sahara Reporters was founded in 2005 by human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, aged 34, who has been calling for democracy in Nigeria since 1992. He has been arrested eight times and tortured. He worked with Jonathan Elendu from 2005 to 2007.
Nigeria has five million Internet users, fewer than the African average at 3.5%. Almost two thirds of the users are concentrated in the financial capital, Lagos.