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Nigerian Blogger Arrested For Sponsoring a ‘Guerilla News Agency’

Nigerian blogger, Jonathan Elendu, has been arrested by the State Security Service (SSS), the federal security enforcement agency in Nigeria.

Jonathan Elendu created Elendu Reports in 2005. It is an online news site focusing on federal corruption, economic mismanagement and government inefficiency. Jonathan has been living in the US since 1999:

Born and raised in eastern Nigeria, Elendu has resided in the US since 1999. He is president of Elendu & Associates, Inc., a public relations firm in Lansing, MI. He is Contributing Editor and Columnist for USAfricaOnline.com, the USAfrica Newspaper, Nigeria Central.com and Special Correspondent for the Black Business Journal Magazine. He is also the founder of SongDanceAfrica, Inc., a multi-media company.

According to the Nigerian blog, Nigerian Curiosity, Jonathan was arrested because his activities have generated some national security issues:

Jonathan Elendu, the writer at Elendu Reports, was arrested by Nigeria's SSS on Saturday evening upon arrival in Nigeria from the United States. Elendu was reportedly arrested to answer questions because his ‘activities’ have allegedly generated some national security issues. One publication specifically reported that Elendu was arrested for “sponsoring a guerilla news agency.”[sic]
He was held for over 24 hours before he was interrogated.

Jonathan was arrested at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport:

Our source revealed that Sahareporters which is known for alleged subversive reports against the federal government and important personalities in the country, was allegedly the brain child of Elendu.

It was further learnt that when Elendu was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja as soon as he arrived via KLM Airline around 7.30 p.m. on Saturday, he was immediately whisked away to the SSS headquarters, Asokoro, Abuja.

Said our sources: “The hefty publisher was accosted on arrival by two SSS operatives who told him that he was being invited for a chat with their boss, he responded that since it was an invitation, they should give him time to go home and freshen up.

“The security operatives turned down his request, seized his international passport and whisked him away, only for him to remain incommunicado since then.”

Elendu's family members expressed concern and worry over the state of his health, as nobody has been able to communicate with him since Saturday.

Elandu Reports has been publishing articles considered sensitive by the ruling class:

Several of Elendu’s recent articles have been about the economic and ecological disaster under way in the Niger delta, where there have been armed clashes between government forces and separatist rebels for years. It was this story that led to US freelance journalist and filmmaker Andrew Berends and his Nigerian interpreter, Samuel George, being questioned for 10 days at the start of last month.

Was Jonathan arrested because of a mistaken association?:

News reports reveal that Elendu was mistaken to have some association with Sahara Reporters, a Nigerian site, hence the arrest. I have said it before and will say it again- although I can appreciate the interest in the sometimes sensationalist and “juicy” stories Sahara Reporters shares on its website, I am constantly taken back by their inability or refusal, to back up their claims and allegations. As a result, I personally do not endorse that site.

Nevertheless, association with Sahara Reporters on its own should not be cause for arrest, detention and the infringement of Constitutional and Human Rights. There was no need to ambush and arrest Elendu at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport.

Point Blank News writes, “Why SSS Arrested Elendu …As Hunt For Publishers Of Pointblanknews.com, Saharareporters.com Continues”:

According to top SSS sources, the federal government had been on the trail of publishers of internet-based news organizations such as Pointblanknews.com, Saharareporters.com as well as Elendureports.com, and had therefore spread a dragnet to arrest the publishers if and when they are sighted in Nigeria.

According to the sources, the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration has been unsettled by damaging yet true reports from these online news organizations on its activities and style of governance and had, in fact, threaded where angels feared to, by publishing exclusive stories which newspaper editors in Nigeria would not touch.

The worry of government, according to these security sources, was that the opposition may have gone beyond feeding these online publications with damaging stories on government, but financing its activities. This worry is heightened by the fact that with increasing access to the internet by Nigerians, these online publications now gain wider acceptance over conventional Nigerian newspapers as sources of information. The situation is not being helped by Nigerian editors who often cull stories from these online sources to enrich their papers.

According to Aba Boy, the closure of Nigerian television station, Channels TV, was the signal of things to come:

The closure of Channels TV wasn’t a one-off, it was an signal of things to come. Yardy's henchmen on Saturday arrested Mr Jonathan Elendu – online publisher of Elendu Reports. According to PM news, the United States-based publisher, who was arrested on arrival in Nigeria, was allegedly linked to Saharareporters, another online Nigerian news agency.

The Waffarian is very disappointed:

I am very disappointed with this news. The SSS has arrested Jonathan Elendu of Elendu reports, a political blog that features news and political articles about Nigeria. He was arrested on arrival at the airport under suspicion of being a journalist for Sahara Reporters, one of my favourite places to get the main “koko” of the matter.

What is happening? First Channels Tv, and now arresting an online blogger? I am afraid Yar'adua is going to be a surprise to many in that country. He is one of those that actually bites before even barks!

We need to rethink the idea that online journalism is the safest form of journalism, argues Ayobami Ojebode:

Online journalism has been considered the safest form of journalism, the least susceptible to state clampdown. It has negotiated for itself a clear space in the public sphere for citizens’ engagement of government, its actions and policies. This form of journalism is understandably attractive to Nigerians given the experiences of orthodox journalists in the hands of the Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha—Nigerian military dictators who hounded and pounded journalists for nearly fourteen years. (See, for instance, Sunday Dare's Guerrila Journalism)

Media scholars and political scientists who support the idea of a free press find in online journalism an avenue for unfettered freedom of expression. Not only this, online journalism has led them to announce and in fact celebrate the death of gate-keeping and censorship. [See, for instance, Williams and Carpini’s (2000) “Unchained reaction: the collapse of media gate-keeping…”, Journalism (1) 1:61-85]. Jonathan Elendu’s arrest by the government of Nigeria should lead theorists to cut short this celebration and rethink the universality of their conclusions.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers promises updates of the situation:

As of yesterday, 22nd October he had not been released or charged and it is not clear if he will indeed be brought before the courts.
We will give updates as the situation unfolds.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of Jonathan:

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of Jonathan Elendu, the publisher of the online newspaper Elendu Reports (www.elendureports.com), since 17 October, when he was arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) on arrival at Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport, in the capital Abuja, on a flight from the United States, where he lives.

Denying that Elendu had been arrested, SSS spokesman Kenechuks Onyegogu said he had been “invited” by the SSS to explain certain matters involving “national security.” Elendu is being held at SSS headquarters in Abuja, where close relatives were refused permission to see him yesterday.

Which Way Nigeria denounces his arrest:

WWN denounce the arrest of Jonathan Elendu by the SSS. Elendu is an online journalist whom the SSS have in their custody and have been denied access to a lawyer. Since the SSS clamped down on Channels Television without any caution, the SSS have been embolden and easily dwindle into military era methods in handling Nigerian journalists that will make the Gestapo look like a rookie.

Human Writers Association of Nigeria describes the arrest as “a throwback to dark days”:

A Non-Governmental Organisation, Human Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) last night described the arrest as a throwback to day dark days of recession by state authorities.

Kritz calls for his release:

At least now we know that Elendureports.com is classified by the government as a guerrilla news agency and it has a thing or two against”citizen reporting” websites. We understand that the SSS has refused him access his lawyers and family. How much worse can it get?

Yar ‘Adua not only wins a medal for lack of vision, he also seems set to top us all in stupidity! Whatever the case may be, let them release Jonathan Elendu NOW!

The arrest of Jonathan Elendu is one in a long line of attacks against freedom of press in Nigeria, says Sokari:

The arrest of Jonathan Elendu is one in a long line of attacks against freedom of the press in Nigeria (arrests, harassments and murder of anyone critical of the government) and one which is particularly characteristic of military dictatorships the remnants of which continue to remain active in the country.

Ayobami is disturbed by the silence of most Nigerian papers on the arrest of Jonathan. “Do orthodox Nigerian journalists consider their online colleagues comrades or rivals?,” he wonders:

There is some worry about the silence of most Nigerian papers on the arrest of Mr Jonathan Elendu. We do not know for sure why most papers, unlike bloggers, have been quiet on this. Even the BBC has done a report on the arrest. Do orthodox Nigerian journalists consider their online colleagues comrades or rivals? Maybe this is a good question for empirical investigation. However this goes, in my view, Nigeria is the first African country and the second country in the world (after China) to attempt a clampdown on online journalism.

Why is Tunde Akinloye not surprised by the arrest?:

I'm not surprised that Nigerian security officials arrested Elendu. You'd agree with me why, if you reason that this is the same country where government image makers made fool of themselves lieing openly to the 150 million people where the truth is public knowledge.

Perhaps, now the new generation of Nigerian youths would learn to take charge and elect credible leaders in future elections.

9 comments

  • […] blogger, Jonathan Elendu, has been arrested by the State Security Service (SSS), the federal security enforcement agency in Nigeria. Jonathan Elendu created Elendu Reports in 2005. […]

  • […] Global Voices Advocacy  Print This Post « I hate it when that […]

  • We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Jonathan Elendu, or his arraignment before a court of competent jurisdiction, if he is suspected to have contravened any laws of the land.

  • […] Censures : Blogger.com bloqué en Turquie ; comment un tas de (censuré) dont il a souvent été question en ces pages (Filles et fils d’E.T.) peut-il faire sa loi en Turquie comme aux USA, d’ailleurs ? Dave Lucas en parle aussi dans son Around The Blogosphere 27 October 08 où je retiendrais aussi une autre nouvelle au sujet du blogueur nigérien Jonathan Elendu. […]

  • A Person

    Open Letter to Mr Segun Adeniyi (Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity)

    Dear Mr Adeniyi,

    I am using this unconventional method of reaching you since these are unconventional times in Nigeria (as I recently saw an article attributed to you in SaharaReporters, one of the online publications that your boss and his administration are said to regard as subversive, I concluded that you, at least on occasion, trawl through cyberspace in search of news). In what is fast becoming an obvious and disturbing pattern, what the Yar’Adua administration doesn’t like, the Yar’Adua administration crushes – or at least it tries to.

    The recent arrest of Jonathan Elendu, his detention without charge and, from what I gather, the despicable manner in which he has been tossed between the SSS and EFCC offices without access to his family or legal representation is tragic. In as much as I sincerely hope that the young man will either be formally charged without further delay (if, indeed, he is guilty of any crime) or released immediately and unconditionally, what is of far greater concern to me is that there are many, many, more Jonathan Elendus out there. People whose human rights are decimated day in day out by an administration whose excesses have undeniably come to symbolize man’s brazen inhumanity to man. From the spectacular theft of public funds to the hapless individuals who are picked up, locked up, beaten up, sometimes killed by security agencies that ultimately answer to your boss simply for saying things the way they see them, for speaking out against injustice. Then there are those who just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
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    What I have been struggling to reconcile is how all of this – and other acts of “madness” such as the charade at the EFCC about which governor’s corruption case file does or does not exist, the alleged attempt by the Nigerian attorney-general to bury the money laundering case against James Ibori in the UK, the 28 returning soldiers who are being tried for mutiny for allegedly staging a peaceful protest over the callous withholding of their salaries after completing a UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, the Africans for Obama campaign fund-raising saga involving the director-general of the Nigerian stock exchange – can be happening under your watch, given your antecedents. Without as much as a peep from you. I find it hard to believe that the president or the presidency does not have a position on any of those issues. Or perhaps they are not considered serious enough to warrant a statement from your office. When your boss was interviewed by Matthew Green of the Financial Times in May 2008, he was asked to talk about his achievements during his first year as Nigeria’s president. His response was instructive. “I think my greatest achievement is the effort to institute a strict culture of respect for the rule of law in Nigeria.” When a man’s greatest achievement after ruling a country for a year is an “effort” you know you have a problem. Of course, we all know where that effort has led – 17 dithering months into the Yar’Adua presidency.
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    I would like to take you back to the Elendu issue if I may. Please correct me if I am wrong, but when individuals express their candid opinions about the moral fiber of the political class (the way you used to in your previous job) that runs contrary to what the powers-that-be would have one believe, should those individuals be branded enemies of the state? Should they be made to apologise for expressing their honest-to-goodness opinions (in the forthright way that you used to)? I’m sure that in recent times you’ve come across colorful language such as “thieves,” “thieving bastards,” “reprobates,” “gangsters,” “rogues” etc. that abounds in newspapers, internet chat rooms and so on when describing Nigerian politicians. As unpalatable as such appellations must be for the recipients, anyone that contributes – in whatever shape or form – to the mindless looting of the national treasury and the cruel disenfranchisement of generations of his fellow man deserves all the opprobrium, vilification and anything else that society can hurl at him.

    Unwittingly, as a result of its ill-advised attempts at gagging free speech, the Yar’Adua administration is creating a new class of Nigerian journalists and writers – in the broadsheets and in the strictly online domain – who are fast acquiring rock star status. Nigerians such as me can identify with them and derive a vicarious release from their musings. The more desperate and oppressive the government becomes with its undemocratic actions, the more concerted and vitriolic the response from the custodians of the truth. Some of the rock stars appear to have been born fearless, some are tired of being afraid while some are afraid of being tired. The band is growing by the day. There is far too much at stake for it not to.

    Please push for the immediate release of Jonathan Elendu!

    Please push for justice for the 28 returning Nigerian soldiers!

    Please push for the unceremonious sack (and prosecution, as appropriate) of inept and morally bankrupt public officials!

    Please ensure that the Yar’Adua administration practises what it preaches about the rule of law!

    Please set an example and do the honourable thing by resigning if you won’t or can’t do the above!

    Yours sincerely,

    Olayitan Oke

    http://www.saharareporters.com/columnokeletter.php

  • It is obvious to all that a Nigerian has no basic human rights, especially in Nigeria. If he had known, he would have remained abroad.

  • […] October 2008 Nigerian blogger, Jonathan Elendu, was arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) for allegedly sponsoring a “guerilla news agency”. Written by Ndesanjo Macha […]

  • Rachel Page

    They should’ve have arrested the guerrilla news agency. San Antonio Bankruptcy Lawyers

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