LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Soldiers guarding a city at the heart of ethnic and religious clashes in Nigeria detained and later threw out journalists working for a French television station trying to cover the ongoing unrest there, the reporters said.
The military stopped TF1 journalist Jeremie Drieu, a videographer and local journalist Ahmad Salkida as they tried to work Sunday in the city of Jos, where thousands have been killed in recent years in violence pitting Christians against Muslims. When they attempted to ask for permission to film in an area of the city, soldiers there arrested the journalists and took them to a military command center, where they faced increasingly hostile interrogation, Drieu and Salkida said.
“They started reproaching us for not interviewing the governor,” Drieu told The Associated Press on Monday. “They considered when you go to a place, you have to interview the governor.”
The soldiers also went through some of the material they filmed, the journalists said. Salkida said military commanders said he was “not patriotic” for helping the journalists work on stories dealing with the unrest.
After the interrogation, soldiers escorted the journalists to their hotel, where they were forced to pack and leave Jos and Plateau state as night fell, the reporters said.
“The official reason was security, which was absurd, because it is not safe to take the road at night,” Drieu said.
Drieu left Nigeria on Tuesday to return to France.
A military spokesman for the region, who only gave his name as Capt. Marcus, said Monday that the journalists “didn’t get proper clearance” to work in the area. However, Drieu previously received federal accreditation from Nigeria’s Information and Communication Ministry to work in the country — the only requirement for foreign journalists working in the country.
Jos sits in Nigeria’s “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands. While the violence often cuts across religious and ethnic lines, it often finds its root in political and economic disparities.
Nigerian authorities have become increasingly sensitive to foreign reports coming from journalists working in the nation of more than 160 million as it has become beset by attacks by a radical Islamist sect and popular unrest. Members of the nation’s secret police raided a Lagos office complex in January where both the BBC and CNN have offices during a national strike over fuel prices.
While Nigeria has an unruly free press, local journalists have been attacked and killed in the oil-rich nation over their reporting in the past. Underpaid journalists often also accept so-called “brown envelope” bribes slipped into briefing documents at news conferences or cash from interview subjects.
Agency Report by Jon Gambrell of Associated Press. Follow MuhdLawal on Twitter for more.