An Ogun State High Court Judge in Ota Division, Justice N.I. Agbelu on Monday, ordered the arrest and detention of seven journalists who came to the court to cover the trial of a murder suspect
The seven journalists, who were apprehended by policemen on the premises of Ota High Court 1 in Ado-Odo/Ota local government area, were held in detention for over three hours
They include Daud Olatunji (Vanguard), Samuel Awoyinfa (The Punch), Ernest Nwokolo (The Nation), Abiodun Taiwo (Daily Times), Suleiman Fasasi (Nigerian Pilot), Wale Adelaja (TVC) and Johnson Akinpelu (Alaroye)
The journalists arrived the court about 11:44am to make inquiry in respect of two matters – cases involving victims of Pakoto demolition and murder in Oke-Ore community, which were believed to have been listed for hearing at the court
HOMELAND NEWS gathered that the reporters, who arrived in two vehicles, pulled up quietly and had hardly alighted when a policeman accosted them and demanded their identification
Shortly after, a female Assistant Court Registrar emerged to find out about the reporters’ mission and subsequently demanded for their letter of authority from the Chief Judge or a senior judicial officer permitting them to enter the court premises
All the explanations by the journalists that they had only come to the court to carry out their professional responsibilities fell on deaf ears
It was learnt that the assistant court registrar later informed the judge about the presence of media professionals
She later emerged and claimed that the judge had ordered their arrest, following which the journalists were detained inside the administrative wing of the court from 11:45 am to 2:44 pm
When Justice Agbelu came into the room where the journalists were kept, he was quite explicit about his mission.
“You are under arrest. You will discover that this compound is fenced round; is that not so? It is not on the major road that you can just come in.
“If you are representing the public interest, you must know we have a head in this court. I am a judge, I have an unlimited jurisdiction in the state. I can even say somebody should be arrested without question. But in exercising my power, I have to inquire into many things.
“You cannot say because you are representing public interest, you cannot just burst into any compound or burst into my house. You have a right as a journalist, but, where your own stops my own starts.
“And if I am the owner of a house, I have a right to my privacy, fundamental right to privacy, because I want to educate you. If you want to infringe on my right that is where your own right stops which I am entitled to.
“What I am saying is that judiciary has its own right too. You are infringing on our own right too. You don’t know? A report came to me that some people invaded the court claiming that they are journalists filming the whole place.
“It is not a local market and is not an open market; you are approaching the court. If you are interested in a particular matter in a company, will you just burst into the company, saying you are journalists? That is what I am telling you. You don’t just go into a place and start filming and then say you are a journalist.
“If we said you are trespassing into our land, do you have any defence? Answer me now? I am telling you it is not a public place. I am telling you: the court is not a public place,” the judge said.