Jailed Akwa Ibom Journalist Released as Parties Settle Amicably
By Wemimo Adewuni
Akwa Ibom based journalist, Mary Ekere, who was detained in prison since Monday 16th September, has been released. This was confirmed by the State Chairman National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Amos Etuk.
The release comes after pressure was mounted by the media, highlighting her unjust detention and harassment. Etuk told our correspondent Wemimo Adewuni that agreements had been reached by all parties and the matter will be settled amicably and out of court. This was after the NUJ Chairman met with the Akwa Ibom Attorney General.
On Monday, Ekere who works with the Post Newspaper reportedly noticed unwholesome activities of the state’s Task Force officials, who seized goods of traders along the Ibom Plaza in Uyo and began to take pictures.
She was subsequently beaten and stripped naked by persons suspected to work for the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Waste Management Agency, Prince Ikim. The journalist was then taken to their office at Itam from where she was taken to Sanitation Court, off Nkemba Street, Uyo.
The Magistrate ordered that Ekere be remanded in prison till the next day.
On Tuesday, September 17th, Ekere was brought to court where she pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of ten thousand naira (#10,000). This was reportedly paid by her father, Hon. Idongesit Ekere, who also filling out the bail form.
However, the Post Newspaper journalist was remanded in prison as the Magistrate reportedly did not sign the bail form.
Speaking to our correspondent, Hon. Ekere said: "the court guy said he was coming to inspect my house, but later came to tell me that Mary will not be released today again as promised (because) the Magistrate had gone without signing the bail form. So Mary was taken back to prison custody.”
“I took food to give to her at the prison, but they denied me access to her. They said I should give money that they will give her to buy food, which I did."
This action was widely condemned by the media and organizations including the National Association of Women Journalists who demanded 'due apology' and compensation, promising to pursue legal action. Also, the National Union of Journalists condemned the actions of the Task Force.
State Chairman, Etuk told our correspondent that the treatment meted out to Ekere was “inhumane.”
“The Task Force was the ones that did this. Nobody sent them. And we have condemned this in strong terms. It was inhumane,” he said.
“The procedures were very wrong. She was thrown into prison as 'Awaiting Trial', which we have condemned. What we were really after was that we got our colleague out,” Etuk noted.
He also thanked the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel for "strongly identifying with the media in Akwa Ibom State and ensuring that that strong partnership continues in our working relationship.”