On Sunday, Nigerian soldiers raided the offices of the Daily Trust newspaper in both Abuja and Maiduguri, arresting two staffers after they published an article detailing military operations in the northeast region of the country.
Army spokesperson Sani Usman said the story, “divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”
According to a statement issued on Sunday night by Mannir Dan-Ali, the CEO and editor-in-chief of the paper, soldiers and security officials raided the office in Maiduguri and detained regional editor Uthman Abubakar and reporter Ibrahim Sawab.
According to the statement, colleagues and family of the pair have not heard from either of the men since they were taken into custody.
Later that evening, armed soldiers reportedly occupied the offices of Media Trust Limited in Abuja — the publishers of Daily Trust — computers were confiscated and staff sent home.
The federal government later directed the military to leave the premises.
“We have not been told of the reason for the military operation against this newspaper but suspect it may have to do with the lead story of the Daily Trust on Sunday that dwelt on the military’s effort to retake some towns recently reported to have been lost to insurgents,” Dan-Ali said.
Press freedom in Nigeria is limited and journalists are under threat for reporting on politics and terrorism.
In 2018, Nigeria ranked 119 out of 180 countries included on the World Press Freedom Index, and there are currently 171 journalists imprisoned in the country. These statistics may change ahead of the mid-February general elections.
Former vice president and main opposition party candidate and Atiku Abubakar on Twitter said press freedom was the bedrock of Nigeria’s democracy and “nothing should be done to compromise it”.
I have received with concern news of the sealing of Daily Trust corporate headquarters in Abuja.
Freedom of the press is the bedrock of our democracy and nothing should be done to compromise it.
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) January 6, 2019
The raid is the latest in a number of threats against journalists on the continent in the past few months.
In November last year, Angela Quintal — a South African journalist and former editor of the Mail & Guardian — along with her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo were detained in Tanzania while on assignment for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The pair was taken from their hotel room in Dar es Salaam and detained by security officials for allegedly not declaring the purpose of their visit upon arrival in the country. Their travel documents were confiscated, but they were later released following a massive outcry and the intervention of the South African government.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more details emerge.