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Imo newspaper vendors embark on strike over harassment by security operatives

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• CP clarifies arrests as group flays police

Newspaper vendors in the 27 councils of Imo State, yesterday, commenced an indefinite strike to protest against incessant harassment, arrest, detention and torture of their members by security operatives.

They alleged that security operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) set up by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) detained some of their members for over seven days.

“The operatives only released the Imo State Sales Representatives of the New Telegraph Newspaper, Chuks Ugwuibe on Monday, while four of the five vendors arrested at number 5, Rotibi Street, Owerri, were released on Monday, after being manhandled.

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“Also, the IRT operatives, who report directly to the IGP, had kept a vendor, simply identified as Sacatan in detention at the time of filing this report,” the group said.

Imo State Chairman of the Newspaper Sales Representatives, Udofia Alex Imoh and the South East Bureau editorial official of New Telegraph, Steve Uzoechi, confirmed that Ugwuibe was still alive after his ordeal with the policemen.

Ugwuibe was arrested at Banana Junction, Orlu, when he went to collect sales realised from his vendors after selling their newspapers, in the area and was denied access to his family members, colleagues and associates.

But reacting to the claims, the Imo State Police Command has clarified that the IRT operatives arrested the newspapers vendors and distributors for profiling and analysing some publications being circulated in the state.

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Commissioner of Police (CP) Abutu Yaro stated this yesterday when members of the Correspondents Chapel visited him at the Command’s Headquarters in Owerri.

He commended the leadership for the visit and assured that the command would continue to facilitate, enhance and sustain the existing relationship between the media and force.

“I thank you for mustering the issues and presenting them in the most satisfying manner. I found out that IRT operatives had been working on the subject matter before now on some publications and issues that require further profiling and analysis,” he said.

MEANWHILE, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) has condemned the unlawful arrests, detention and torture of vendors in Imo State and the South East zone.

Its President-General, Goodluck Ibem and Secretary-General, Kanice Igwe, described the arrests as “a coup against democracy.”

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