COVID-19: Nigeria named in 83 Attacks on Media Worldwide

COVID-19: Nigeria named in 83 Attacks on Media Worldwide

Nigeria has been named in a report by the International Press Institute (IPI) detailing 83 press freedom violations worldwide linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report which captures direct attacks on journalist as well institutional hindrances press freedom shows that 14 of such cases were cited in Africa. The International Press Institute

Nigeria has been named in a report by the International Press Institute (IPI) detailing 83 press freedom violations worldwide linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report which captures direct attacks on journalist as well institutional hindrances press freedom shows that 14 of such cases were cited in Africa. The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom.

A breakdown of the report shows that 20 of the attacks resulted in arrest and charges pressed; 10 have to do with access to information; 15 have to do with press censorship; 10 emanated from emergency powers while the remaining 20 deals with verbal/physical attacks of journalists.

In Nigeria, officials of the Delta State Task Force on Environment, on April 2, reportedly attacked Michael Ikeogwu, chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Mathew Omonighoe, correspondent of the Daily Post while covering the COVID-19 lockdown. The two journalists were in the Uvwie Local Government Area of the state to monitor the stay-at-home order by the government when they were stopped by the task force officials and assaulted. Omonighoe reportedly had his Nikon D3100 camera destroyed.

Similar to this, in Zimbawe, Nunurai Jena, a reporter for the Newsday and Voice of America was arrested by the Zimbabwe Police and is being detained at Chinhoyi police station for using a 2019 accreditation to report about the Covod-19 cases. The arrest took place despite Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services instructing the police to accept the 2019 accreditation cards.

Another incident in Zimbabwe is that of Freelance journalist Panashe Makufa who was allegedly beaten up by the police and forced to delete the footage on his camera on April 4 in the capital Harare. The journalist had gathered footage of a police operation to disperse people as part of their enforcement of the national lockdown.

In Uganda, Daily Monitor correspondent Perezi Rumanzi was assaulted by security personnel while covering a story on the lockdown in Ntungamo district. Another journalist, Dalton Iga, who works for Radio Simba in Mukono district, was injured in an attack by members of the local defence unit, gathering people’s response to the lockdown.

More than 60 journalists are being detained in different Egyptian prisons as at April 2,, which are overcrowded and have woefully inadequate medical facilities. Prisoners do not have access to medical care.

In Vietnam the government has passed a new law which for the first time gives authorities powers to fine people for publishing or sharing what it deems to be “fake news” on social media. Authorities say the law is aimed at tackling both “falsehoods” related to the pandemic, but also wider forms of misinformation, worsening an already restrictive legal landscape for what remains of the country’s critical and independent media.

Though there are no imminent threats or signs that the government could clamp down on the media, Nigeria’s Minister for Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed has in recent times warned against the spread of fake news on the pandemic. He warned that the spike in fake news and misinformation, despite repeated caution by the Government, is distracting the fight against COVID-19.
In an earlier report the IPI had warned that “in a bid to control information about the COVID-19 pandemic, several governments around the world are using emergency powers to stifle independent media.”

According to data collected by the International Press Institute (IPI), governments, especially those with existing authoritarian tendencies, are taking advantage of emergency legislation to crackdown on media freedom, frequently on the pretext of combating the spread of “fake news”.

“While certain types of emergency measures may be needed to effectively combat the current pandemic, any such measures that infringe on fundamental rights must be necessary, proportionate, temporary and limited to solving the immediate health crisis”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.

“Unfortunately, IPI’s monitoring shows that certain states are already using the crisis as a blank check to establish methods of silencing independent media that harm the flow of badly needed information now and that may outlive the pandemic.”

Ayo Aluko-Olokun
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