Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of online journalist Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, the editor of the Huhuonline (http://www.huhuonline.com) website, after a week of interrogation by the State Security Service, the domestic intelligence agency, but deplores its refusal to let him to go back to the United States, where he lives.
“Irked by websites with political or satirical content, the Nigerian authorities are trying to force online journalists and bloggers to censor themselves,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their inability to tolerate criticism and satire is unacceptable, especially when it results in people being detained. We urge the SSS to allow Asiwe to return to the country where he resides.”
Asiwe was freed on 4 November, after being held for a week. He was not charged but the SSS said he was questioned about “matters of national security.” His passport has not been returned to him since his release.
Asiwe, who created his Huhuonline website in 2007, was the second US-based Nigerian blogger to be arrested on arrival in Nigeria last month. Jonathan Elendu of ElenduReports (http://elendureports.com) was arrested on 18 October and was held for 11 days.
The authorities hardened their stance towards online publications after satirically-captioned photos of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s young son posing with cars, money and a gun were posted on the Sahara Reporters (http://www.saharareporters.com) website.
Nigeria’s 5 million Internet users represent 3.5 per cent of the population, which is lower than the African average. Nearly two thirds of them are concentrated in Lagos, the country’s economic capital.
The SSS takes its orders directly from the president and specializes in doing the government’s dirty work. Raiding news organisations, carrying out illegal arrests and holding journalists incommunicado are among the hallmarks of its operations. The SSS has repeatedly shown a lack of transparency and good faith, going so far as to deny arrests of journalists that had dozens of witnesses. It is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”
The photos of the president’s son