Following the unlawful detention of its pioneer member, Mr. Utitofon Morgan Ukpong, Publisher of the popular news blog www.sitippe.com, the Coalition of Online Publishers in Akwa Ibom State has written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Open Letter issued on behalf of the body, is signed by Ifreke Nseowo, Chancellor and Nelson Nseabasi, Secretary General, to call to order politicians in his political party All Progressives Congress (APC) by Mr. President.
The Letter Reads:
The Senator Representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Godswill Akpabio and the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, Obong Nsima Ekere (the APC Gubernatorial candidate in Akwa Ibom State) have been fingered as the brains behind the unlawful arrests and inciting violence in the state
Your Excellency, this men have deployed all machineries to use intimidation, blackmail, propaganda and unlawful arrest of journalists in Akwa Ibom State as a strategy to achieve their selfish political goals, not regarding the consequences of their action to the lives of other citizens, the polity and the society.
Mr President Sir, it could be recalled that 2 months ago, after the arrest of the publisher of The Guide Newspaper and a former APC chieftain, Prince Emmanuel Sam we had published an SOS announcing the use of Police by politicians to restrain journalists from discharging their duties and exercising their fundamental human rights as citizens of this country.
Again, the same shameful act was repeated on Monday, December 3,2018, as we received with great discontent the news of another arrest and detention of a journalist, the Publisher of the popular news blog www.sitippe.com , Mr Utitofon Morgan Ukpong.
Even when it was discovered that Mr Morgan was held in custody at the Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia for mistaken identity, he still was not released to return to his family and work, instead, he was held against his wish and kept in the cell on the orders of a personality whom the police refer to as ‘ Oga At The top, order from above ‘.
We want to state unequivocally that this is a clear witchhunt as the allegations against him are malicious.
We as the apex and umbrella body of online publishers in the state will like to state that we frown at such selfish act which we think is only designed to clamp down on journalists who they feel are threats to their ambitions.
Our members have since been living in fear of terror by these politicians or their men who may choose to use another approach other than what is acceptable by law in a civil society. If the speculations happen to be true and the police decides to take sides, then it means that our freedom of speech and democracy is threatened.
We hereby use this medium to call on The Presidency, The Legislative arm of government, the Judiciary, United Nations, Human Rights groups and well-meaning Nigerians to call the police to order.
We also urge the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom to issue a caveat on this planned manhunt against media practitioners. This intimidation and harassment must stop forthwith.
Senator Godswill Akpabio and Obong Nsima Ekere who are the politicians bringing up the trump-up charges against the blogger should stop using the police to intimidate the press. The former Senate Minority Leader in particular should not try to return this state to the dark era of his administration where journalists were witchunted for merely discharging their duties.