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Nigeria18 April 2008

Authorities free four US filmmakers and Nigerian colleague

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of four US filmmakers and a Nigerian colleague who had been held at the headquarters of the State Security Service since 12 April. Director Sandy Cioffi, reporters Cliff Worsham and Sean Porter, and producer Tammi Sims were released to US embassy personnel on 16 April. The Nigerian who was accompanying them at the time of their arrest, Joel Bisina, was also freed.

16.04.2008 - Four US filmmakers and Nigerian colleague arrested in Niger Delta

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of four US filmmakers and a Nigerian colleague who were arrested in the Niger Delta on 12 April while making a documentary about the region’s petroleum industry to be called “Sweet Crude.”

“The Nigerian authorities have no reason to detain the ‘Sweet Crude’ crew and their Nigerian colleague aside from a desire to control news and information about this troubled region,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their papers were all in order and their presence was known to the authorities. It is shocking to have to remind the government that journalism is not an illegal activity in Nigeria and should, on the contrary, be an inalienable right.”

Director Sandy Cioffi, reporters Cliff Worsham and Sean Porter, and producer Tammi Sims were arrested while on a boat near the town of Warri, in the Niger delta. Joel Bisina, the head of Niger Delta Professionals for Development, a local NGO, who was helping them, was also arrested.

They are accused of travelling without military authorisation although no law in Nigeria says such a permit is necessary. They were questioned for six hours in Warri until Brig. Gen. Rimtiip Wuyep, the local military commander, ordered their transfer to the headquarters of the State Security Service in the federal capital of Abuja. Their lawyer, Bello Lubebe, has not been allowed to see them.

The four American filmmakers entered Nigeria legally on 5 April after notifying the authorities of their intention to shoot footage for their documentary.

There has been repeated violence for more than two years in the Niger Delta by both “militants” claiming to defend the interests of the local population and criminal gangs drawn by the petrodollars. The region generates more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign currency earnings and is responsible for its being the world’s eighth biggest oil exporter, but the local inhabitants are as poor as they were half a century ago.

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