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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Damilola Ayeni FIJ Editor Freed After 9 Days in Benin Republic Detention

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Damilola Ayeni, the editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), has been released from detention in Benin Republic.
Ayeni, who was detained in Benin for nine days on trumped-up terrorism charges, regained his freedom on Friday after combined efforts of sustained media pressure, relentless work by the Nigerian Embassy in Benin, and legal representation and advocacy efforts facilitated by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
As of the time of this publication, Ayeni was being handed over to Nigerian authorities, although he will remain in Benin Republic for a little longer.
‘Fisayo Soyombo, the founder and editor-in-chief of FIJ, personally confirmed Ayeni’s release and wellbeing in a phone conversation — the first in nine days.
Ayeni was on a trip to Benin for the second leg of fieldwork on a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report when the Beninese authorities arrested him in Parakou, northern Benin, on August 31.
The Beninese police kept Ayeni incommunicado throughout his detention, claiming he was a jihadist.
Ayeni was initially detained at the Commisseriat Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou, Republic of Benin, before he was transferred to a holding facility in Cotonou on Tuesday. The police kept him in detention but reached out to FIJ to demand 800,000 CFA (approximately N1.2 million) for his freedom.
Numerous individuals, media houses and non-governmental organisations at home and abroad pushed for Ayeni’s immediate release after news of his arrest became public on the fourth day.
An environment enthusiast, Ayeni was on the longlist for the 2023 edition of the One World Media Awards’ International Journalist of the Year category. He was also on the shortlist for the environment category of the 2021 Thomson Foundation Young Journalists (FPA) Award.

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