Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the police raid on the head office of the Peoples Gazette.
The security agency arrested the assistant editor, John Adenekan, and four other staff of the newspaper in the Utako area of Abuja on July 22.
The officers had requested to see the Managing Editor, Samuel Ogundipe, and a reporter, Adefemola Akintade.
Adenekan and others – Ameedat Adeyemi, Grace Oke, Sammy Ogbu and Justina Tayani – were later released after hours of detention.
The police said they were invited for questioning over a petition on defamation of the character of ex-Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin Republic.
In a statement on Monday, MRA Programme Director, Ayode Longe called on the federal government to rein in the police.
Longe accused the agency of “becoming a tool in the hands of rich or powerful individuals and entities for harassing journalists and media organizations”.
He said policemen raiding media outfits, arresting and detaining staff, and intimidating media professionals over complaints had become a trend.
“It is not the duty of the Police to protect the reputations of individuals or organizations or shield them from scrutiny, especially when the Police are failing woefully in ensuring the safety and security of all citizens.
“While the Police have virtually abdicated their duty to fight crime, they appear to have no difficulty in finding the resources to deploy troops to media houses to intimidate journalists and other media workers,” he said.
Advising the government to immediately put an end to the practice, Longe stressed that the protection of the reputation of any individual is fundamentally a personal matter.
The MRA told the police and other agencies to stop availing themselves in vindicating the reputation of any individual, regardless of the status of the person claiming to have been defamed.
The statement advised law enforcement agencies and officials to focus their attention on addressing the more pressing state of insecurity in Nigeria “instead of chasing shadows”.