UPDATE: Nigerian journalist Akina Deesor released, reinstated at radio station

Thursday, February 4, 1999

Nigerian journalist Akina Deesor released, reinstated at radio station

4 February 1999

CJFE has received confirmation that Akina Deesor (whose first name has also been reported as Okina), a producer with Radio Rivers who was reported missing since his detention in August 1996, was released on 12 February 1997, having spent seven months in detention. Though rumours of his release had earlier circulated, his whereabouts had remained unknown until recently.

In a recent interview with Lagos-based "Media Monitor", Deesor explained that after his release, he returned to the radio station offices to seek reinstatement. Though at first it appeared that he would be reinstated with full compensation, the station's general manager told him some three weeks later that he had received instructions from authorities that Deesor was not to be allowed into the radio station's offices. Deesor attributes the decision to the same army commander who had ordered his arrest in 1996, Obi Umahi. Deesor received no letter stating that he had been suspended or was wanted for any offence. In a protest letter to the management of Radio Rivers, he demanded to know what offence he was guilty of, but no explanation was offered for this sudden reversal.

In the same "Media Monitor" interview, Deesor explained that while in detention, he was flogged and often denied any food.

On 29 December 1998, he was invited back to the radio house to be given a letter of reinstatement. Deesor maintains that the radio station did all it could to help him through his ordeal. "Even from the start, they were very friendly. My survival up to today is largely because of their understanding. I thank them for that. They had wanted to help me, but it was that instruction from the powers above that caused a little bit of distance between me and them. Since I came back, we have been very friendly, from the General Manager to everybody up to the cleaner. To them, I'm like a lost shepherd, a lost sheep among them."

In the letter, Radio Rivers management explained to Deesor that in a November 1998 meeting they had discussed his situation, and that in line with the national reconciliation efforts of the present administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, his reinstatement took effect on 1 December 1998.

BACKGROUND: Akina Deesor, a producer with Radio Rivers, was arrested and detained by security agents in 1996 for playing Ogoni music on the radio. It was alleged that during one of his radio programmes called "Ilisor" (Ogoni programme in Ogoni language), he had played music that was connected to MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People) - music that was often played in the heyday of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa. Despite Deesor's denial that such music was played, and the intervention of Radio Rivers' then general manager, the commander of the Rivers State Security Task Force took him into detention.

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