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Nigeria16 June 2006

Leading TV political presenter released

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Gbenga Aruleba, a well known presenter of a political programme on privately-owned African Independent Television (AIT), one day after he was arrested.

Aruleba was beaten up and held with two common-law criminals serving long sentences after his arrest on 15 June. He was picked up by police who complained that he used a pejorative term “tokunbo”, meaning something inferior, when referring to the presidential plane.

He has now been summoned to appear in Abuja on 19 June at the offices of the State Security Services (SSS).

“Gbenga Aruleba has repeatedly faced a variety of accusations and this time bizarre ones, demonstrating the extent to which the SSS hounds critical journalists particularly when it involves a president doing his best to remain in power” the press freedom organisation said.

15.06.2006 - Intelligence agents arrest current affairs presenter in raid on TV studio

Reporters Without Borders today demanded the immediate release of Gbenga Aruleba, the well-known presenter of a current affairs programme on the privately-owned African Independent Television channel, who was arrested when around 10 members of the State Security Service, a domestic intelligence agency, raided AIT’s studios yesterday.

“There is absolutely no justification for the heavy-handed methods used by the SSS against Aruleba,” the press freedom organisation said. “Worse still, they gave no explanation after arresting him in this outrageous manner. The Nigerian government should realise that this type of operation will just increase civil society defiance towards the authorities.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “In view of the fact that 2007 will be an election year, we are particularly concerned about the prospects for civil peace if the SSS continues to be used as a mechanism for censorship.”

Yesterday’s SSS raid was on AIT’s studios in the Asokoro district of the federal capital, Abuja. Witnesses said the SSS agents seized videotapes and recording equipment. A friend of Aruleba told Reporters Without Borders Aruleba was being held at SSS headquarters in Abuja. No explanation for his arrest was offered by the authorities. Aruleba presents “Focus Nigeria,” a programme in which politicians are invited to discuss current affairs.

Yesterday’s operation came exactly a month after an earlier raid on AIT’s studios on 14 May in which SSS agents seized the videotape of “A Documentary on Tenure Elongation,” a programme about all the unsuccessful attempts by previous Nigerian rulers to remain in office longer than they were supposed to.

Nigeria’s oldest privately-owned TV station, AIT has been in the government’s sights since it began carrying live broadcasts of the national assembly debates about an amendment to the 1999 constitution proposed by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s supporters that would have allowed him and the state governors to run for another four-year term. The national assembly rejected the amendment a few days after the May raid.

A habitual perpetrator of commando-style raids on the privately-owned media, Nigeria’s SSS was included last year in the Reporters Without Borders list of Press Freedom Predators.

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