Tag Archives: documentary filmmaker

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.


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.

Action Alert: 9/8/08

Action Alert: Monday September 8th

It is the middle of the day on Monday in Nigeria, and Andrew has already been re-detained and questioned for over 3 hours with the State Security Service (SSS).

The more pressure we apply to our elected leaders (and by extension to the State Department) the sooner Andrew will be released. Your collective calls on Friday made a huge difference, and Andrew was able to spend the weekend in comfort thanks to YOUR efforts on the phone. Please don’t stop now.

Please contact your local congressional representatives TODAY and ask them to continue to put political pressure on this issue. If you have already called them on this matter, call again to follow up. You can find your local representatives here.

What to say:

  • As a constituent and a concerned citizen, I wanted to bring your attention to the continued detention of American journalist Andrew Berends and his translator, Samuel George, in Nigeria. Having been arrested eight days ago, he has still not been charged, and is currently being subjected to yet another day of interrogation.
  • Nigeria enjoys the highest level of diplomatic relations with the United States, and for an American journalist to be detained without representation and subjected to coercive questioning is both highly inappropriate and illegal.
  • We ask you to make known your awareness and concern about this matter, contact your colleagues in Congress and the State Department, and work to ensure the good treatment and speedy release of Andrew Berends and his interpreter from Nigerian custody

Senators from New York:

We would like everyone to call both their own local representatives and also the two Senators from New York State. When talking with New York reps, please add that Andrew is a New Yorker. Both the NY senators have previously spoken out on Andrew’s behalf, but it is critical that they keep up the pressure on their State Department counterparts TODAY. Please call and ask for their urgent and immediate attention to this matter.

The contact information for NY senators Clinton and Schumer is:

  • Senator Charles Schumer (D- NY) 212-486-4430
  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D- NY) 212-688-6262

Please forward this call to action to anyone you think could help by making a call to their representatives and the NY senators.

Weekend Update:

“Still holding our breath”

Two new pieces of news coverage regarding Andrew this morning — both important in better understanding the situation in Nigeria as well as the nature of Andrew’s temporary release. While everyone is relieved that things have moved forward, this ordeal is definitely not over and we can’t give up our vigilance.

First is a radio interview with Aaron Soffin, Andrew’s producer and editor, and Sandy Cioffi from the documentary Sweet Crude.

Sandy and her Seattle based crew were detained in Nigeria under similar circumstances back in April 2008. Listen to hear more about the circumstances of Andrew’s arrest, the situation on the ground for journalists in Nigeria and why a better understanding of this complex area is critically important.

Click here to listen

You can also reach the radio interview by visiting the KPFA website


Also, the New York Times ran an update about Andy’s situation today. You can read it below:

Nigeria: Brief Release for Prisoner


Published: September 6, 2008

Andrew Berends, an American filmmaker who was arrested Sunday and charged with spying, has been moved to the capital, Abuja, and released for the weekend. He is still under arrest, however, and must report back to the State Security Services on Monday. American Embassy officials in Nigeria and State Department officials in Washington are working for his full release. Mr. Berends’s Nigerian interpreter, Samuel George, has also been released. Amnesty International had issued a statement warning that Mr. George might have been tortured and urged that both men be released immediately.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) new press release:

Christiane Amanpour speaks out:


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been advocating on behalf of Andy and Samuel since their detention on Sunday August 31st. Today, in a new press release from CPJ, Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent and CPJ boardmember calls for Andrew and Samuel to be released. 

No stranger to the challenges of working internationally, Amanpour raises an important point that we cannot forget: journalists and filmmakers must be free to tell vital stories that inform a better understanding of our world today. We cannot stand by and watch them be censored into silence through fear and intimidation. Each one of us that consumes media is responsible for protecting the rights of the journalists and filmmakers who put themselves at risk to bring us these critical stories. Please take action to help Andrew and Samuel be released


NIGERIA: CPJ demands release of journalist and translator

New York, September 4, 2008—
U.S. documentary filmmaker Andrew Berends was filming women going to the market in a public waterside area of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, when he was detained by the Nigerian military, according to e-mails sent by the journalist to his editor. In the e-mails, which have been reviewed by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Berends said a sergeant had given him permission to film in the area.

The e-mails contradict the Nigerian military’s claim that Berends and translator Samuel George were filming a military deployment without clearance when they were detained on Sunday.

State Security Services in Port Harcourt detained Berends for 36 hours after his arrest and then ordered him to report for day-long interrogations each day since. George has remained in custody throughout the week.

“CPJ calls for the immediate release of Samuel George and Andrew Berends whose only crime is carrying out their work,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “The Nigerian military must stop arresting local and international journalists on spurious allegations, and it should halt its effort to censor reporting of the Niger Delta region.”

CPJ’s board also expressed deep concern. “Nigeria’s democratic government must release Berends and George and allow journalists to freely cover this vital story,” said Christiane Amanpour, a CPJ board member and CNN chief international correspondent.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday, urging her to work for Berends’ immediate release. “Mr. Berends was embarked on an effort to raise awareness of and concern for this region and its complicated problems,” Schumer wrote. “Unfortunately, in this case, it seems that the Nigerian government’s response is to harass and intimidate foreign and native journalists. This is unacceptable.”

Berends, an award-winning filmmaker, legally entered Nigeria in April to complete a documentary called “Delta Boys,” sponsored by the New York-based Tribeca Film Institute, about the region’s oil conflict. During his first 36 hours in detention, Berends was not fed and was denied sleep, CPJ reported on Tuesday. His personal belongings, including equipment and passport, have been confiscated, according to his e-mails. Berends said he had heard that he may be moved to Abuja.

George is a graduate of Port Harcourt University of Science and Technology and has helped with translations for Berends’ film. Berends had previously directed a film on Iraq called “Blood of My Brother,” which was screened widely on the international festival circuit and earned a 2006 International Documentary Award.

Another documentary film crew was arrested this year by the Nigerian military in the Niger Delta region. The Nigerian military arrested the film crewof “Sweet Crude” on April 12 and held them for a week on charges that were never substantiated. According to CPJ research, this is the fourth time journalists and media workers have been arrested in the Niger Delta on unsubstantiated charges since 2005.

Senator Clinton speaks out

Senator Hillary Clinton also speaks out on Andy’s case:


Senator Charles Schumer speaks out


Senator Charles Schumer’s letter to Condoleezza Rice regarding Andrew Berends