The management of Premium Times yesterday said the Nigerian Police did not pressure its reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, to implicate the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, during his detention.
The newspaper also said in a statement by its Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, that its reporter was never tortured while in detention.
The medium was reacting to claims on social media quoting its reporter as saying he was pressured by police investigators to, as condition for his release, name Saraki as the source who leaked a police report to him.
The fake report also quoted Ogundipe as saying he was tortured.
The reporter had promptly debunked the report, saying on his Twitter handle, “At no time during my detention —not when I was first interrogated and told to write a statement before my Editor-in-Chief @Musikilu or at any other time during my three-day ordeal — did Saraki ever come up. I was only pressured to say my source, an unreasonable demand I rejected.”
But despite Ogundipe’s rebuttal, the police believed the false narrative and went ahead to widely circulate a press statement reacting to the fake news.
In a statement on Sunday, the medium described the police as the latest victim of the growing fake news syndrome, saying its reporter never made the claim attributed to him.
“By issuing a statement to respond to a false narrative, the police became one of the latest victims of the fake news syndrome,” Mojeed said.
“The truth is at no time during the interrogation of our reporter did police investigators pressure him to implicate anyone. All they wanted to know is the sources for his stories.
“The police also did not physically torture Mr. Ogundipe during his three-day ordeal in detention.
“Although we remain committed to fighting the latest onslaught on our reporters to a logical conclusion, we will do so with facts, decency and social responsibility.
“We will never accuse the police of offences they did not commit.
“At a time all lovers of civil liberties, especially freedom of speech and the press, are celebrating the latest victory against anti-democratic forces in Nigeria, a fake report putting words in the mouth of our reporter should be the last thing we should be responding to at Premium Times.
“But since the Nigeria Police Force, an institution that has the capabilities to discern facts from fiction, has failed to live up to its calling, the buck has been passed to us to set the records straight.
As you are all probably aware by now, the illegal attempt by the police to coerce our journalists to reveal the sources of a story suffered setback with the release of Mr Ogundipe on Friday on a court-approved bail.”
Ogundipe’s freedom after three long nights in police’s illegal custody was widely celebrated not only in Nigeria but far beyond our shores.