The Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has demanded the immediate release of Damilola Ayeni, a Nigerian journalist currently detained at the Parakou Police Station in neighbouring Benin Republic.
Ayeni who is the editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) was arrested on August 31 and labelled a jihadist by the police.
According to his newsroom, the journalist had gone “for the second leg of a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report” when the arrest took place.
FIJ also reports that police authorities in Benin Republic are demanding money for his release.
Condemning the arrest, CWPPF in a statement on Wednesday said the accusation of Ayeni being involved in jihadist activities lacks credible evidence and appears to be politically motivated.
The coalition also said the case raised concerns about the misuse of anti-terrorism laws to suppress free speech and dissent in the subregion.
“His arrest without due process also violates internationally recognized human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression,” part of the statement read.
“This act by the Beninese police has raised serious concerns about the state of press freedom and human rights in the Benin Republic, as well as the broader implications for journalists working across the region.
“The coalition hereby condemns the unjust arrest of Damilola Ayeni and calls on the Government of the Republic of Benin and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to take immediate action to rectify this situation, thereby upholding the principles of justice, rule of law and respect for human rights.”
The group added that diplomatic efforts, media campaigns, and advocacy will continue until justice is served.
“In these trying times, it is crucial for governments around the world to protect the fundamental rights of journalists and ensure they can carry out their vital work without fear of persecution.”
The CWPPF is a group of media and civil society organisations committed to upholding good governance and democracy by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom.
Members of the group includes Premium Times, The Cable, Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), and Civic Media Lab.
Others are Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), International Press Centre (IPC), International Press Institute (IPI), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Paradigm Initiative, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and HEDA Resources Centre.
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