The Nigerian bank account of Sahara Reporters, owned by embattled journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore, was frozen without advance notice in October, Committee to Protect Journalists said.
“Sahara Reporters’ Nigeria-based account with Guaranty Trust Bank was frozen without warning in October, La Keisha Landrum Pierre, Sahara Reporters’ chief operating officer, told CPJ.
Pierre told CPJ the bank said the account was subject to “a government hold” and “not able to be operated,” but would not elaborate.
When CPJ requested comment by email, Ijeoma Nwachukwu, a relationship manager with Guaranty Trust Bank, declined to reveal details about specific accounts because of “duty of confidentiality.”
The committee said apart from freezing the media platform’s bank account, a staff who spoke to CPJ said the platform website was separately disabled twice due to allegations of copyright infringement.
“Surveillance, cyberattacks, and copyright notices against Sahara Reporters mark a concerning pattern of interference and harassment of an investigative news outlet,” Pierra told CPJ.
Pierre said the entire site was “separately taken down for several hours each on October 16 and November 17 in relation to a copyright complaint under U.S. law.”
“Staff report cyber attacks and increased surveillance outside their Lagos office,” CPJ said.
“Sahara Reporters must be permitted to keep the Nigerian public informed without intimidation,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
Sahara Reporters’ boss is being detained by State Security Service since August 5, despite court orders granting him bail. He was charged with treason, cybercrime, and money laundering.
He was briefly released last Thursday but was re-arrested less than 24 hours later. The Nigerian government said Sowore is “person of interest” to the secret police.