by Cletus Ukpong.
Two journalists covering a protest in Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria, have been arrested and molested by the police.
Okodi Okodi and Owoidoho Udofia, who were detained briefly, said they sustained injuries from their encounter with the police.
The journalists work with a private radio station, Inspiration FM, in Uyo.
Inspiration FM, in a Facebook post, said the two journalists, including the station’s driver, Mfon Eyibio, were “battered” by some police officers on September 24 for covering a violent protest at Mbierebe Obio, a semi-rural community near the police headquarters in Uyo.
The youth in the community had clashed with the police over the enforcement of the Akwa Ibom state government ban on motorcyclists in Uyo.
The protesters attacked the NTA office in Uyo, set fire on a vehicle there, and burnt down another vehicle along the road.
One person was reportedly shot dead by the police during the clash.
Mr Okodi said he was doing live updates on the clash via Inspiration FM and Facebook.
“The attack on us was clearly unprovoked,” Mr Okodi told PREMIUM TIMES.
“After covering the protest, I was on my way back to our vehicle so I can get to the office and do my report, they accosted us and took us away even when we identified ourselves as journalists.
“They took us to the station (police headquarters), harassed us, and tortured us. They asked us to remove our shirts and then forced us to roll back and forth on the floor,” the journalist said.
Mr Okodi said what was strange about the incident was that they had just finished interviewing the police spokesperson in the state, Odiko McDon, at a location close to where they were picked up by the police.
He said the police officers kept beating them at the police station, even when they continued to identify themselves as journalists. “One policeman in the station recognised me and told the other police officers that he knew me as a journalist,” he said.
The two journalists were detained for about 30 minutes at the police anti-robbery section before the police spokesperson, Mr McDon, came to free them, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Mr Okodio said Mr McDon apologised to them and at the same time defended the action of the police officers thus, ‘You know their operation is different, they are anti-riot policemen’.
“I am still feeling sharp pains in my back right down,” Mr Okodi told PREMIUM TIMES over the weekend.
“I want an official apology from the police. I also want those police officers who attacked us to be punished for it,” he said.
The other journalist, Mr Udofia, had a cut near his eyelid.
“Up till now, something is telling me that there’s something fishy about the attack because while the protest was going on, Okodi was doing live reporting. I feel it’s a setup,” Mr Udofia said.
“We showed them our identity cards, they said they didn’t even want to know. They asked us, ‘what kind of interview were you doing with the police PRO? Who are you?
“The police in Nigeria are not human beings, I swear!”
The police spokesperson, Mr McDon, did not respond to calls and a text message from PREMIUM TIMES.
The attack on the two journalists is coming a few days after a female journalist in Akwa Ibom, Mary Ekere, was assaulted and thrown into jail by officials of the state task force for taking photos of the task force raiding a local shop.