The Department of State Services (DSS) has reportedly arrested Kufre Carter, a sports journalist based in Akwa Ibom state.
According to a group known as the Peoples Alternative Fronts (PAF), Carter was arrested over the allegation that he defamed Dominic Ukpong, commissioner for health in the state.
In a statement on Wednesday, Eze Aloysius, PAF secretary, said the alleged blackmail had to do with a phone conversation which Ukpong had with a certain doctor.
He suggested that the reporter may have been critical of the state’s response to COVID-19 – forming an opinion on the basis of the phone conversation.
Aloysisu said Carter was arraigned at a magistrate’s court in Akwa Ibom on a three-count charge bordering on defamation on Wednesday.
According to him, Carter was taken to court “in a commando style by a large contingent of DSS operatives.”
Winifred Umohandy, the magistrate, was said to have granted the reporter bail in the sum of N3 million.
“As if that was not excessive enough, the magistrate insisted that the surety must be a permanent secretary with the Akwa Ibom state government,” the secretary said.
“Not done with her outlandish conditions, the Magistrate also demanded that Mr. Carter should bring ‘a letter of identification’ from his village head to the court as part of his bail conditions.
“It is also reported that the Magistrate descended into the arena and openly showed bias when she expressed anger in open court over the way people now write things against government officials on Facebook and other social media.
“The People’s Alternative Fronts (PAF) is seriously disturbed by the development in Akwa Ibom State. We are aware of the escalating attacks on critics of the state government and the use of the SSS and the Police to clampdown on dissent.”
Aloysius said it was surprising to see Joseph Umoren, director of public prosecutions (DPP), leading the prosecution of Carter.
While calling on Godwin Abraham, chief judge of the state, to intervene in the matter, he described the bail condition as a mockery of the judiciary.
Efforts to reach Peter Afunaya, DSS spokesman, for comments were not successful.
– The Cable