Samuel George off the hook, for now

Samuel had to report to the SSS office in Port Harcourt again today. He stayed a short time and was told to leave. If they need anything else from him, they’ll contact him in the future. It sounds like “case closed”, and we hope they never bother him again. We’ll continue to be in touch with him to make sure this is really over.

Meanwhile, we’ve received $3947 in donations from 74 individuals, along with $5000 from RSF , CPJ , and the Correspondents Fund toward Samuel and Joe’s legal fees. I’m really grateful to all who contributed. But after a flurry of contributions over the past couple of days, new donations have slowed to a halt. So, I’m making a final plea to anyone who thought about contributing, but didn’t. We could really use your help to reach the goal.

Click here to contribute.

I’ll be very glad when this is all finally settled. I feel fortunate that I made it out of the Niger Delta with six months worth of footage. But, I’m frustrated that I was kicked out a few weeks before my job was really done.

I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, and the friends I made, including Samuel and Joe. And I’m hopeful that, in some way, the work I’ve done will have been worth the trouble.

Help Samuel and Joe with their legal fees. We need your support.

Thanks to all who have expressed interest in donating to support Samuel and Joe’s legal fees. And thanks very much to those who have contributed already. To make it easy, we have set up a ChipIn so that you can contribute on-line.

Click here to learn how you can contribute.

We really need your participation. It is important that translators and local journalists around the world know they can do their jobs without fear for their lives, their families, or the expenses they will incur on our behalf.

Happy Hour with Andrew

7PM, Tuesday September 16th

Get-together with Andrew Berends at the Bubble Lounge in Tribeca, NYC

This is an informal gathering where I’ll have the opportunity to raise a glass in gratitude to all those who helped secure my release from custody in Nigeria.

We’ll also be raising money to help support the legal fees incurred by Samuel George and Joe Bussio.

Bubble Lounge is offering us an industry discount, thanks to managing director Emmanuelle Chiche who is a great supporter of photojournalists and documentary filmmakers.

All are welcome!


Latest News

Joe Bussio released; Samuel George to return in 2 weeks

Joe Bussio and Samuel George returned to the SSS offices today as requested.  Joe was released and his name fully cleared.  All of his personal property was returned to him.  Samuel was told to return in 2 weeks, though no reason was given for his requested return.

We are still concerned about Samuel George’s situation, and are discussing the best course of action. It seems that Joe and Samuel accrued fairly significant legal fees in the course of this ordeal, and we’re also talking about the best way to help them pay that bill.

Stay tuned for more information, and for any ways you can help, as we know more.

Latest News:

Andrew returns home; Samuel’s fate undetermined


*****************CONTAINS UPDATES***********************

CONTACT Aaron Soffin, Storyteller Productions Phone: 917.887.4063
/ 212.712.2781 Email:

American filmmaker returned to US after detainment by Nigerian government

NEW YORK, September 11, 2008 –Andrew Berends, the American filmmaker who had been detained by Nigerian State Security Services was returned to the United States Wednesday.  He was escorted to his plane by Nigerian immigration officers without an explanation as to why he was being sent home.  Berends was never charged with a crime, and had a legal business visa in his passport at the time of his detainment.

His Nigerian translator, Samuel George, has been provisionally released, but is expected to return to the State Security Services offices at noon on Friday, along with a third man who had also been detained. The status of any investigation against them is still uncertain.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) jointly sponsored a letter, written to the President of Nigeria calling for Berends’ immediate release, and signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Kerry (D-MA).

This is the third in a string of similar detainments of American journalists in the past two years by the Nigerian government. Most recently, five members of the crew making the documentary film “Sweet Crude” were detained for seven days, before ultimately being released without being charged.

Berends says, “I am extremely disappointed with this pattern of suppressing press freedom in Nigeria. It calls into question the Nigerian government’s sincerity when it comes to upholding the basic tenets of democracy since the transition from military rule in 1999.”

Berends was in Nigeria working on his documentary film, “Delta Boys,” about the militancy in the Niger Delta. He had been arrested at Nembe Waterside in Port Harcourt along with his translator, Samuel George, while filming women on their way to market. He had been granted permission to film by the military sergeant in charge in the area.

Back on US soil

CONFIRMED: Andrew Berends coming home

Thank you

We would like to express our sincerest thanks and gratitude to all those who helped in the release of Andrew Berends from Nigerian custody. Andy has now left Nigeria and will return to the United States shortly. Once all the facts of his deportation have been established, we will be posting a final press release about this situation.

This moment could not have been achieved in such a timely manner without the collective effort of hundreds if not thousands of people who contributed their time and energy to making this happen. If you’re reading this, that probably means YOU. So thank you once again.

Please help us also thank those representatives and officials who lent their support to our cause by sending out emails to their respective offices. We have tied up the phone lines of many a senator’s office over the past week, and it seems only fair to let them know we truly appreciate that they have gone out of their way on our behalf.

In particular, we need to thank Senators Hillary R. Clinton and Charles Schumer of New York for spearheading this effort within the US Senate, as well as Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Kerry (D-MA) who all took time to act quickly on this issue and call for Andrew’s release.

We strongly encourage you to email these Senators, as well as any local representatives you contacted, to express thanks for a job well done. You can find further information, and a sample letter, at the bottom of this post.

From what we understand, Samuel George, Andrew’s translator, and another man who was detained with him are returning to the State Security Service (SSS) tomorrow. We hope that they will be fully cleared then. International journalism relies on the work of such trusted friends as Samuel, and we ask you to check in tomorrow to learn of their status. If there’s more we need to do to help them, we will be the first to let you know.

And after Andrew has had a few moments to recover from this experience, check back here to learn more about his experiences in detention and the broader issues of press freedom in Nigeria, Africa, and elsewhere, as well as to see excerpts of his upcoming film, Delta Boys.

It is truly humbling and uplifting to have watched such a diverse mass of people come together to achieve something great — for Andrew Berends and Samuel George in particular but also for the issue of press freedom in general. We hope that you will all continue to advocate on this issue to help other journalists and filmmakers now and in the future.

Witnessing the groundswell of activity from people in all corners of the globe over the last 10 days has served as testament to the lives and communities that Andrew has touched, and the work that he has put himself at risk to accomplish. Let this serve as a reminder that we should all continue to raise our voices when we see injustice, and never underestimate the impact of the collective voice. It can move mountains.

Please read on for details on how to contact your reps to say thank you.


Sample letter of thanks:


Dear Senator ________,

I’m writing to express my thanks for the valuable effort that you and your
office contributed to securing the release of American filmmaker, Andrew
Berends, from Nigerian custody. I applaud this action, and appreciate the work
that you have done on Andrew’s behalf. Please continue to lend your support to
the cause of Press Freedom, and to the protection of journalists everywhere.

Best regards,


To email the Senators listed above, you can follow these links.

Senator Charles Schumer

Senator Hillary Clinton

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Richard Durbin

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Russell Feingold

Senator Robert Casey Jr.

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator John Kerry

To those of you who contacted your local representatives, please do take the time to contact them once again to express thanks for a job well done. The general source for contacting US Congress members is here.


Andrew Berends coming home:

BREAKING NEWS:  We believe that Andrew has been deported and is currently on his way out of the country.  We’re waiting to hear his voice when he connects in Europe, and will confirm his release then.

US Senators take up the cause

US Senators take up the call:

Today Senators Schumer, Clinton, Murray, Durbin, Cantwell, Leahy, Feingold, Casey, Brown and Kerry joined together to seek Andrew’s immediate release in a letter to the Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Thank you to all of you who called and advocated on his behalf.

The letter appears below. Please continue to check back here for updates on this situation.

Tuesday Morning and no good news

Day 10 in detention:

It’s Tuesday morning now, and this is the 10th day since Andrew’s arrest arrest and the seizure of his passport and belongings. Nothing has changed. The Nigeria Security Services still have his passport. They have given no indication of when he will be free to go or if he will be charged with any crime.

Yesterday’s action alert still applies. We must keep up the pressure to ensure he is released soon. Please contact the New York Senators and your own senators and congresspeople.

You can find a listing of your local representatives by clicking here and details for Senators Schumer and Clinton by scrolling down.