Nigerian military should 'cease threatening' journalist
Mark Caldwell (AP, AFP)
August 19, 2016
A media watchdog says Nigeria's military must stop threatening a journalist because he refuses to turn informer. A civil society worker linked to the reporter tells of a brush with the military at a local barracks.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the Nigerian military has told freelance journalist Ahmad Salkida he could face terrorism charges for refusing to provide information about the militant group Boko Haram.
The CPJ has called on the Nigerian military to "cease threatening" Saldkida.
The Nigerian army announced last Monday that it wanted to question three suspects, including a journalist, for allegedly concealing information about the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.
The announcement came shortly after the release of a new video purportedly showing some of the more than 200 girls who were seized by Boko Haram in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, in April 2014.
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said Salkida had been in contact with Boko Haram, as had civil society activists Ahmed Bolari and Aisha Wakil, AFP news agency reported.
The three "have links with Boko Haram terrorists" and "must therefore come forward and tell us where the group is keeping the Chibok girls," Usman said.
Usman invoked the 2011 Terrorism Prevention Act under which "Nigerians could be punished for failure to disclose information about terrorists or terrorists' activities."
CPJ West Africa Representative Peter Nkanga said journalists must sometimes rely on the trust of dangerous people. "Coercing them to become informers risks putting all journalists under suspicion and in danger," he said.
'They took my phone'
Bolari told DW he had been to his local barracks where he had met some senior military officers who were known to him personally. After asking them why he was on the wanted list, the officers told him it was a mistake and he should report back to them the next day, Bolari said.
Bolari said he went back the next day, publishing everything that was happening to him via social media. "They took my phone and told me if I am holding the phone, it will continue to increase tension." Bolari said the officers then explained that they had invited him so he could be "part of solving the problem", telling him that they did not suspect him of anything.
Bolari said he was released on the condition that he would make himself available to them whenever they were looking for him. The military believed that he was an ambassador in solving the Boko Haram issue, he told DW.
Aisha Wakil, whom Nigeria's Premium Times described on its website as "a lawyer and negotiator for the Boko Haram sect" was allowed to go home on Wednesday without charges after questioning.
Salkida wrote on his personal blog on August 15 that he would accept the military's invitation [for questioning]. He told CPJ he believed the military were trying to punish him for his persistent reporting on Boko Haram since 2006. He has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 2013.
Salkida also said he feared for life and that anonymous callers had threatened him about his articles and posts to social media websites and his contacts with Boko Haram.
Salkida posted Boko Haram's latest video on Sunday (14.08,2016), AP reported. His response the following day to being declared a wanted man was "my status as a Nigerian journalist who has reported extensively, painstakingly and consistently on the Boko Haram menace is an open book."
Boko Haram, which seeks to impose strict Islamic law in northern Nigeria, has been blamed for some 20,000 deaths and displacing more than 2.6 million people since 2009.