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Nigeria: US documentary filmmaker arrested

Dear friends,

Our dear friend and colleague from: D-word.com, Andrew Berends, has been arrested while reporting from Nigeria. Below, and attached, you can read the details of his detainment. First, I ask you to keep him in your hopes and prayers. Second, as the news of this breaks today, I ask you to think about who you know in the media or in the Senate/House who can help bring more attention to Andrew’s situation. Please call them on Andrew’s behalf, and please forward the press statement below as widely as possible. The more attention this gets, the better. Third, some of you may receive calls from reporters. I urge you to say only what is written below, a carefully worded statement to protect Andrew in this difficult moment. Finally, please respond to this address only if you have high level contacts in the US government, the media, or the Nigerian government. Otherwise, please send any notes, or prayers for Andy to this e-mail address:


May Andrew hear your prayers on his behalf.

Aaron Soffin, Storyteller Productions
Phone: 917.887.4063 / 212.712.2781
Email: soffin@gmail.com

American documentary filmmaker detained in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

NEW YORK, September 2, 2008 – Andrew Berends, an established, award-winning American filmmaker and journalist from New York, was detained Sunday August 31st by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George, and Joe Bussio, the manager of a local bar. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film.

Andrew was held in custody without food, sleep, or representation, and with limited water for 36 hours. He was questioned by the army, the police, and the State Security Services in Port Harcourt. He was then temporarily released, with an order to the SSS office at 9AM Tuesday morning. The State Security Services has confiscated his passport and personal property. Andrew’s translator, Samuel George, remained in custody over night.

The US State Department is aware of the situation, and an attorney has been retained on Andrew’s behalf. We, Andrew’s friends, family, and colleagues, are deeply concerned that he has been held without cause and are calling for his safe treatment and immediate release.

by Mercy M at 2008-09-03 07:08:47 UTC (ed. Sep 5 2008 ) Nairobi , Kenya | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Maybe the best way is to contact US embassy in Nigeria ?
perhaps you`ve done this.
hope Andrew will be fine.

by Dato Rostomashvili | 03 Sep 2008 11:09 | Tbilisi, Georgia | | Report spam→
Dear Lightstalkers and Friends -

We are now in the fifth day of Andrew Berends’ detainment in Port Harcourt, Niger Delta, Nigeria. Andrew’s friends, family and colleagues are outraged about his situation and find it incomprehensible that more has not been done to secure his release.

The U.S. State Department has been aware of Andrew’s detainment since day one. Yet he still has not been visited by a State Department official. We believe it is beyond acceptable protocol for an American citizen to be held illegally without an agent of the American government visiting him to ascertain his safety and the conditions of his custody and to make it crystal clear that the U.S. government is advocating in no uncertain terms for his release.

It does not appear that the State Department has done enough to be in constant communication with the Nigerian Government to apply pressure or even get accurate information about Andrew’s status and well-being. If what they are doing is more than minimal, that has not been made clear to us, Andrew’s advocates. Nor has it been getting any apparent results. Too many days have passed with no shift in Andrew’s circumstances and no coordinated or decisive action on the part of the State Department to shift things.

Andrew entered the country legally as a filmmaker and journalist. He was filming in a public place in a country that claims to be a democracy when he was arrested. He was not filming oil facilities or the military, which are the only two subjects the Nigerian government has deemed to be sensitive. We have been told that on the day he was detained, Andrew even asked and was granted permission by a military official prior to filming.

Andrew reported to us that during the first 36 hours of his detainment, he was interrogated nonstop with no sleep. He was denied food and given barely any water. He does not have the benefit of legal representation inside the SSS facility and has been forced repeatedly to make coerced statements.

This is the fourth incident of American journalists being held in Nigeria within the past two years. It is now a pattern. It is evident that there has been no legitimate reason for the treatment these American citizens have endured. Rather, these incidents are intended to suppress journalism. They are a blatant attempt by the Nigerian government to cover up the evidence of years of human rights and environmental abuses and discourage others from coming to expose the poverty, injustice and corruption rampant in the region. We call on the U.S. government to speak out against this.

We urge our Congressional representatives to let the State Department know that the legislative branch they serve and answer to will not stand by and let more hours of inaction pass. In a country like Nigeria and a region like the Niger Delta, things can change in an instant. It is dangerous to assume that Andrew is OK and give in to the platitude that “these things take time.” This situation must be elevated to the highest level of urgency. We must press strongly and continuously for Andrew’s immediate release and safe escort out of the country.

Because journalists working in foreign countries often depend on local assistants and translators to do their work, make themselves understood, and keep safe, we are particularly distressed that Samuel George, the Nigerian national who works as a translator with Andrew Berends, was also detained by the Nigerian Military. We have had no word of his condition since his arrest, and we are deeply concerned that Samuel may be experiencing harsh treatment at the hands of the Nigerian government. It is imperative that Samuel George also be released immediately, and that there be no further intimidation and harassment of media workers by the Nigerian government.

  • For the latest updates about the situation and to strategize about how to help, go to the Free Andy Berends topic on The D-Word: http://www.d-word.com/topics/show/147?read=new
  • There is also a Help Andy Blog: http://helpandy.wordpress.com/

by Senain Kheshgi | 05 Sep 2008 16:09 | Los angeles, United States | | Report spam→

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Mercy M, Producer /  Fixer Mercy M
Producer / Fixer
Addis Ababa , Ethiopia
Dato Rostomashvili, Photographer/Fixer Dato Rostomashvili
Tbilisi , Georgia
Senain Kheshgi, Documentary Filmmaker Senain Kheshgi
Documentary Filmmaker
Los Angeles , United States


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