Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Nigeria arrests two reporters over Boko Haram coverage

Daily Trust office sealed by police and paper 'will not be on newstands for first time in 20 years'

Nigerian soldiers hold the extremist group's flag in the retaken town of Damasak. Reuters
Nigerian soldiers hold the extremist group's flag in the retaken town of Damasak. Reuters

Nigerian security forces arrested two journalists on Sunday over their coverage of Boko Haram, sources at the newspaper have said.

A combined team of secret police, soldiers and civil defence paramilitary stormed the office of the Daily Trust in the northern city of Maiduguri and whisked away its northeast regional editor Uthman Abubakar and reporter Ibrahim Sawab.

The team seized the journalists' laptops and mobile phones at the newspaper's headquarters in the capital Abuja.

"The raid was in response to our cover story today on the military preparation to retake the town of Baga which was captured by Boko Haram last week," one source at the paper said.

Another said that it was another reporter, Hamza Idris, who was the raid's target but the other two were arrested when he could not be found. Armed police have also sealed the office.

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"Armed soldiers raided our head office this evening. It is a continuation of the crackdown that started in our Maiduguri office earlier today. They stormed into the newsroom on the third floor and seized computers and laptops before ordering everyone to vacate the building," a source at the paper said. "They have sealed the building. This means we will not be on the newstands tomorrow for the first time in 20 years."

More than two dozen armed soldiers also raided the Daily Trust head office in Abuja on Sunday evening.

According to the same sources, similar operations took place at the Lagos Daily Trust office at the same time.

The Daily Trust reported on December 31 that Boko Haram militants captured six localities in northern Borno state including Baga, disputing military claims that the group was not in control of any territory in the region.

This followed a series of Boko Haram raids on military bases in the area.

Following the report, the military issued a statement threatening to take action against "unscrupulous elements" and "inaccurate news reports by some sections of the media".

Soldiers carried out a similar raid on the same office in 2013 in a failed attempt to arrest Mr Idris over another report the military deemed critical.

In November 2018, the Nigerian military threatened legal action for "fake news" after media reports stated much higher military casualties than the official toll from a Boko Haram raid on a military base in Metele village.

In June 2014, soldiers seized newspapers and delivery vans of the Daily Trust and three other newspapers over reports that "portrayed the Nigerian military in a bad light", accusing the vans of ferrying illegal arms.

Updated: January 7, 2019 03:09 PM

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