Nigerian editor released

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Nigeria’s military released an editor two days after detaining him over an article about a planned offensive against Islamist militants in the north-east, his newspaper said.

Soldiers raided the Daily Trust’s offices in Abuja on Sunday in an operation the Committee to Protect Journalists said showed “a dearth of respect for press freedom” a month before elections.

Soldiers shut down the newspaper’s bureau in Maiduguri where they detained regional editor Uthman Abubakar. The military later said the article “divulged classified military information” and the action was meant to show the seriousness of the breach.

Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the north-east in recent months, putting pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to crush the insurgency and faces fresh elections on February 16.

The military complained in the past about critical coverage of its fight against militants from the Boko Haram separatist group and their more lethal offshoot Islamic State West Africa. It stopped short of arresting reporters.

Abubakar was brought back to the paper’s Maiduguri office and released without charge on Tuesday, the Daily Trust said in an article . The bureau was reopened a day earlier.

The regional editor was “courteously treated” but “his mobile phones and laptop were still with the military as authorities said they needed time to finish forensic checks on the equipment,” the paper said.

Its chief operating officer, Mannir Dan Ali, called the arrests “totally uncalled for and condemnable,” in interviews on local media.

The military did not immediately comment on the release.

Government’s chief spokesman, Lai Mohammed, said while authorities “are not about to gag the press,” the media “must exercise greater restraint” when reporting on the north-east insurgency.

Some publications were “demoralising the military and strengthening insurgents,” he said, without providing details.

A second Daily Trust journalist detained in Maiduguri was released eight hours after the raid.