A female journalist identified as Mercy Ekere based in Akwa Ibom State has reportedly been thrown into jail for taking photos of task force officials who raided a relaxation spot, notoriously known for illegal street-trading on Monday, September 16, 2019.
Mercy Ekere who works with ‘The post Newspaper, ‘ a state-based media outlet, is said to have spent two nights in prison.
According to Premium Times, the journalist was said to be walking past the popular recreational spot called Ibom Plaza, in Uyo, the state capital, when she saw officials of Akwa Ibom government task force raiding the spot. She decided to take some snapshots of their operations.
“They were on illegal operation, obviously. So, they arrested her for taking the photos, pushed her into their vehicle, and then threw her into jail just like that.” Gideon Ekere, editor-in-chief of The Post, was quoted to have said.
The task force is under the state government’s Environmental & Waste Management Agency headed by a man named Prince Ikim.
The journalist was arrested on Monday around 12:30 p.m. and later remanded in the Uyo prisons the same day.
Ms Ekere, wearing prisons uniform, was taken to a sanitation court on Tuesday morning.
The journalists’ union in Akwa Ibom have reportedly been making efforts to secure her release but to no avail.
“I went there (the court) in the morning, we were assured (by Prince Ikim) that bail conditions would be given to her and that she would be released,” Amos Etuk, the state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, was quoted to have said.
Etuk said he also got an assurance from the prosecutor that Ekere was going to be released on bail on Tuesday.
She was reportedly arraigned at a sanitation court but was taken back to prison despite meeting her bail conditions. The magistrate was said to have left the court without signing the bail documents.
“We don’t even know how they threw her into the prisons in the first place,” Etuk was quoted to have said.
“They took her to a police station, from there to the court, the magistrate was not there, so they took her to the prisons.”
Ms. Ekere’s parents, who spent all day in court, felt sad to see their daughter taken back to the prisons.
“I left the court and went back to the house to prepare food for her to eat, but I was surprised to see the father come back alone,” her mother said, sobbing.
“That girl has not committed any offence!”
The NUJ issued a statement on Tuesday night condemning the arrest and arraignment of the journalist.
“The State Council demands her unconditional release on or before noon on Wednesday,” the union said in the statement.
Diamond Ifiok, the information officer at the Environmental & Waste Management Agency, told newsmen that some unruly boys engaged the officials of the task force in a fight.
“Mary Ekere was within the area when this thing happened; she didn’t identify herself as a journalist. It was later at the court that she said she is a journalist,” Ms Ifiok said.
She said the chairman of the agency, Prince Ikim, has been informed about the journalist’s arraignment and that he was surprised she has not been released despite meeting her bail terms. He promised to ensure that the accused is released soon.
“You know when it gets to court, there is nothing you can actually do other than to follow the rules of the court to get yourself out,” she said.