Senegal: CPJ demands investigation of alleged threat against Nigerian journalist

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Nigerian authorities should investigate claims that a businessman threatened freelance journalist Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna over her investigation into his company, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Friday.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, CPJ revealed that Armstrong-Ogbonna, who won the 2015 United Nations Foundation Prize for humanitarian coverage was threatened by Emmanuel Iheanacho, a former interior minister, while investigating allegations that his company, Integrated Oil and Gas, was dredging around Irede community in the commercial capital, Lagos, without government approval and without an environmental impact assessment.

Iheanacho denied the allegations about his company.

"We are concerned by this report of a powerful public figure seeking to intimidate a journalist," remarked CPJ West Africa Representative, Peter Nkanga. "We call on the authorities to investigate these threats against Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna in a timely and thorough manner."

Armstrong-Ogbonna told CPJ that when she contacted Iheanacho for comment while writing the story he threatened her and told her not to publish.

The journalist had included the alleged threats in her report, writing that Iheanacho "warned me not to publish any story or else I will put myself in the firing line. He threatened to visit my office."

According to the press freedom watchdog, the story was published on the Environews website on February 15, and broadcast and discussed on two radio stations including Radio One 103.5 FM.

Armstrong-Ogbonna further told CPJ that on Monday, Raymond Gold, the Irede community spokesman she quoted as a source, was arrested on accusations of breaching the peace through a provocative story reported in the media.

The community spokesman reportedly called Armstrong-Ogbonna from court on Tuesday and told her that police were acting on Iheanacho's orders and planned to arrest her too.

The journalist told CPJ she would report the threats to police.

''Funke Treasure Durodola, the general manager at the government-owned station Radio One 103.5 FM, told CPJ that Iheanacho visited the station's offices in Lagos last week and reported Armstrong-Ogbonna to the station's management.''

''Armstrong-Ogbonna told CPJ Iheanacho accused her of being paid to write the story to tarnish him. Durodola said the station's legal department was looking into every aspect of the matter,'' the statement noted.

Meanwhile, Iheanacho denied threatening Armstrong-Ogbonna and told CPJ that the journalist was spreading falsehood about him.

He said he has reported Armstrong-Ogbonna to all security agencies, including the police, for smearing his reputation.

CPJ said it had contacted Lagos State Police spokeswoman, Dolapo Badmus, about the threats and claims that police, acting on Iheanacho's orders, planned to arrest the journalist.

The spokeswoman responded, saying that Armstrong-Ogbonna needed to petition the police and provide evidence for the threat to be investigated.

-0- PANA MLJ/AR 26Feb2016

26 february 2016 16:53:04

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