Nigerian journalist, detained in Benin Republic, released

The Nigerian journalist, Damilola Ayeni, earlier detained in Cotonou, Republic of Benin has regained freedom Friday night after one week of incarceration at Benin’s northwestern Pendjari National Park in the country.

Penpushing reports that Ayeni, environmental journalist, of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), was initially detained by the police authorities at the Commissariat Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou.

The journalist was  later moved him to Cotonou, on grounds of alleged terrorism and espionage for taking pictures at the park, claiming he had no authorization to be at the spot, while charges were subsequently dropped following intense clamour for his release and a concert of civil society and diplomatic intervention led by  Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin, Olukayode Aluko

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Penpushing further reports that the clamour for Ayeni’s release got support from, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to Togo, Debo Adesina who was a former editor of the Guardian newspapers in Lagos State.

The other bodies which called for the release include Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), home to 15 Nigerian newspapers and human rights organisations, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Penpushing also reports that others are the West African investigative journalism group, CENOZO, based in Burkina Faso, and the local Benin office of Amnesty International, and that all charges against him be dropped and he should be allowed to work safely

The Publisher of Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Fisayo Soyombo, however, denied the allegations against Ayeni explaining that the reporter was at the park to report on an environmental conservation story.

‘Since an incident of terrorism was spotted at its northern borders, Beninois authorities have been edgy on media reporting around the park. Last year, police at the Pendjari park arrested three journalists, Flore Nobime of the local AFP office, Dutch journalist Oliver van Beemen, and a French TV 5 reporter, for similar reasons, according to Rachida Houssou, the BBC Africa correspondent in Benin’.

Penpushing reports that President of the Union of Media Professionals of Benin, Zakiath Latoundji,it is recalled said efforts to reach journalist were hindered for most of Friday in an apparent effort to quickly charge him.

‘However, the union helped secure the services of an attorney, Elie Dovonou, to announce representation for the journalist before the Special Prosecutor at the Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism, CRIET, the Beninois body that tries terrorism cases.

Penpushing further reports that the Nigeria’s Ambassador to Togo, while receiving Ayeni later at the Nigerian embassy, joked about the prestige and value of being a journalist such that the whole world stood up for the reporter to secure his freedom.

“I cannot recall the number of calls I got on this one case, from local and international organisations to our ambassador to Togo, to his employers and even from the Villa’, the ambassador stated

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