Released Editor Narrates Torment, Says Abduction Linked to Critical Stories

By Joke Kujenya

SEGUN Olatunji, the just released editor of FirstNews Online Newspaper, who was abducted and detained by the Defense Intelligency Agency (DIA), has linked his ordeal to critical stories published by his publication.

His release comes after about 14 days of captivity, during which he endured interrogation and physical discomfort.

In an emergency press conference organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), and International Press Institute (IPI Nigeria), Olatunji detailed his harrowing experience.

He recounted being forcibly taken from his home in Lagos on March 15, 2024, by armed personnel, being blindfolded and flown to Abuja, and held in an underground cell where he was subjected to tight handcuffs and leg chains.

He noted that during his captivity, he faced interrogation focused on stories critical of high-ranking officials, including the Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Chief of Staff to the President.

Notably, one story titled: “How Gbajabiamila Attempted to Corner $30billion, 66 Houses,” drew ire from certain quarters within the Presidency.

Despite the pressure, FirstNews did not remove the controversial story from its website. Olatunji’s wife, who witnessed his abduction, expressed fear and confusion over the incident.

Efforts by the IPI Nigeria, NGE and the NUJ proved instrumental in Olatunji’s release. However, it was not without challenges as military authorities initially denied holding him.

Nigerian media observers say the release of Olatunji has sparked renewed concerns about press freedom and civil-military relations. Media stakeholders have also condemned the actions of the DIA, describing them as anti-democratic.

In response to inquiries, the Director of Defence Media Operation, Major-General, Edward Buba, denied military involvement in the abduction, stating: “The armed forces are not in the business of kidnapping journalists.”

Media stakeholders note that Olatunji’s release serves as a reminder of the challenges journalists face in carrying out their duties, particularly in environments where press freedom is under threat; adding that the Nigerian media community plans further actions as the incident underlines the importance of upholding freedom of the press in a democratic society.

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