After yesterday's revealtion that the Nigerian army had arrested two Al Jazeera journalists, Al Jazeera has demanded the release of its workers.
Al Jazeera Ahmed Idris and producer Ali Mustafa were detained in their hotel room after they were returning from covering a story on the Nigerian forces fighting Boko Haram in Borno State. The story was part of Al Jazeera’s special coverage on the Nigerian elections.
Nigerian military officials had interrogated the men and had their camera equipment confiscated.
Both men have been kept in their hotel rooms and are officially detained until further notice.
A military statement had revealed that they were operating without “protection, accreditation or due clearance” - despite having just completed filming with the cooperation of the military.
However both Ahmed and Mustafa are officially accredited by the Independent Electoral Commission in Abuja with the clearance to report from anywhere in Nigeria during the entire election period.
The statement by the military also warned “foreign” journalists against loitering in unsafe areas, but both Idris and Mustafa are Nigerian nationals. Idris is said to have rich experience reporting in northern Nigeria. Last year he was the first international journalist to reach Chibok and interview families affected by the mass kidnap of schoolgirls by Boko Haram.
An Al Jazeera spokesperson said: "We call on the Nigerian authorities to release Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa; they have all the relevant paperwork to report on the Nigerian elections and stories related to the election. Both men had just finished filming a story on the military with their cooperation. They were not ‘loitering’, but were in the hotel room and had only passed through the restricted areas of Yobe and Borno State to get to Maiduguri." "Both men are accredited and respected Nigerian journalists.
As Nigerian citizens they are allowed to travel their country freely. Al Jazeera calls on the authorities to end this matter swiftly by returning all their equipment and releasing both men without conditions." Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa are part of four Al Jazeera English teams reporting on the election in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy.
The Nigerian North east has been troubled with the boko haram insurgency for the past 5 years and had been put on emergency lockdown for some a year now.