…Ask Government to Severely Punish Perpetrators Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the Nigerian Guild of Edtors (NGE), have slammed recent attacks against journalists and media houses in some parts of the country, particularly in Lagos, by state and non-state actors in the wake of the #EndSARS
…Ask Government to Severely Punish Perpetrators
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the Nigerian Guild of Edtors (NGE), have slammed recent attacks against journalists and media houses in some parts of the country, particularly in Lagos, by state and non-state actors in the wake of the #EndSARS protests, describing the actions as reprehensible acts of intimidation and reprisals against media workers and organizations engaged in the lawful pursuit of their professional functions.
In a statement issued by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA said “the failure of the government and its law enforcement agencies to protect media houses, journalists and other media workers in the face of these threats, wanton acts of harassment and intimidation, arson, physical violence and other violation of media rights is a shameful abdication by the government of its legal and constitutional responsibility to protect them as well as a breach of its obligations under international human rights law.”
According to Mr. Longe, “The media serve a critically important function in society, particularly in times of crisis and emergencies, as it is imperative that citizens, other members of the public and communities are adequately informed about the prevailing situation, including any threat to their lives or wellbeing. Such acts of intimidation and violence against the media and journalists, as we have witnessed in recent days, undermine their ability to perform their functions and violate the public’s right of access to information.”
Incidents of Attacks
He cited recent incidents of attacks against the media, including the October 20 brutalization of two journalists with The Punch newspaper, Mr. Femi Dawodu and Mr. Segun Odunayo, by over 20 policemen while they were covering the #EndSARS protests in the Alausa area of Lagos. The journalists were recording protest activities in the area when the policemen accosted them and ordered them to stop recording. Upon identifying themselves as journalists, the policemen furiously attacked and subsequently took them to the Alausa Police Station where they were further brutalized and asked to change the narrative of their recording. Before they were released, they were warned that the Police will come after them if any negative reports about the Police were published.
Mr. Longe recalled another instance on the next day, on October 21, when the offices of Television Continental (TVC) in Lagos were attacked allegedly by hoodlums taking advantage of the #EndSARS protests. The mob invaded the offices, destroyed property and burnt vehicles parked in the premises as well as the building housing the television station.
In yet another instance, according to him, the offices of The Nation newspapers, also in Lagos, were attacked and burnt down by suspected hoodlums who were also taking advantage of the protests and were able to carry out their nefarious activities unimpeded despite the imposition of a 24-hour curfew all over Lagos State two days earlier by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu, which has now been relaxed to 14 hours.
Mr. Longe stressed that there can be no justification for attacking journalists and media houses as such actions are likely to result in self-censorship as journalists and other media workers become fearful that they are being watched and would be attacked by any party to a conflict or any interest group that is displeased with their reporting.
Noting that impunity for such attacks against journalists and media houses would only embolden the perpetrators and encourage future attacks, he called on the government to ensure accountability for these acts of violence against the media and other violations of their rights by promptly conducting thorough, independent and transparent investigations into all the cases and bringing the perpetrators, including those who ordered, supported or covered up any of these activities, to justice.
Law Enforcement Agencies
He also urged the government and law enforcement agencies to live up to their responsibilities of ensuring the safety of journalists and other media workers by taking urgent steps and putting in place mechanisms to protect media organizations, journalists and other media workers across the country.
Also commenting in the same vein, the NUJ, Lagos State Council in a statement by its Chairman, Dr Qasim Akinreti and Secretary, Mr Alfred Odifa, said, “We are indeed in a very trying times in the state, in the media industry and the country at large. The violent event that took place across the state and some media establishment yesterday has left the media severely bruised and further plunged it to further distress.
“The wanton destruction of facilities at TVC ,The Nation Newspapers, the attack on Channels TV, LTV and shutting down of broadcasts from LTV, Radio Lagos/Eko FM and Traffic Radio was an affront on the Nigerian Media that have always stood in defence of free speech and democracy in the country” it said.
The NUJ noted that, “However, from available reports from the leadership of various media organisations, chapels and other senior officials revealed that no Journalists in the affected media organizations cut up in the crisis was safe.
“The destruction of equipment, properties in the media houses and well being of our members are of great concern now.
Recalling that the media houses provided jobs to its teeming members, the NUJ observed regrettably that “some of our members have lost their means of livelihood.”
While demanding for the setting up of distress fund for Journalists in the media houses affected by the destruction, the NUJ assured its members in the affected media organizations that “we stand with them.”
Editors Decry Attacks
Also condemning the attacks, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) observed that the Nigerian media contributed immensely to the current democracy being enjoyed in Nigeria.
In a statement by its President, Mr Mustapha Isah and general Secretary, Ms Mary Atolagbe, the editors noted that, “Journalists have been reporting all sides since the #EndSARS protests erupted. It is their duty to inform the public of developments in the country, and that they have been doing even at the risk of their lives.
“The media shouldn’t be made to operate in an insecure atmosphere.
“This is why the Guild is calling on the government to provide adequate security for media houses to enable them perform their constitutional role of holding leaders accountable to the people.
“The government should also consider providing compensation for the affected media houses to enable them bounce back and keep their employees at work,” the NGE said.
Victims of Attacks
In a statement signed by the Chairman, Photojournalists Association of Nigeria (PJAN), Lagos Chapter, Mr Kola Olasupo, stated that two of their members from The Nation Newspapers, Deputy Photo Editor, Mr Isaac Jimoh Ayodele and Mr Abiodun Williams were victims of the attack.
Mr Ayodele, also the NUJ Lagos internal auditor, almost lost his life when he was attacked by hoodlums at Mofoluku area of Lagos in the cause of carrying out his official duties.
He was attacked in an attempt to get the shots of the burnt Makinde Police Station, located in the Mafoluku area. He narrowly escaped death after much beating while Mr Williams was attacked at Yaba area of Lagos and his camera completely damaged
Another member, Mr Mike Otogo a photojournalist with The Economy Magazine, was attacked at Ojudu area of Lagos, when he went to cover Ojodu Police Station, set ablaze by hoodlums. He was lucky to escape, but his camera was snatched from him and smashed on the ground by hoodlums. He presently has no camera to work with.
Noting that this attack is one too many, PJAN “pleads with the protesters to see us as partners who believe in their cause and allow our members to carry out their lawful duties.”
The association also urged members, “to stay safe and be security conscious of their movement as they carried out their normal duties, adding that its executives “sympathizes with the unfortunate victims and pray that no harm befalls any members of the association again.”
The International Press Centre, IPC, Lagos-Nigeria also says, it is extremely concerned about latest happenings in the country with respect to the #ENDSARS and #ENDSWAT protests especially the targeting of media institutions and harassment of journalists.
“IPC particularly condemns the Wednesday October 21, 2020, arson attack on Television Continental (TVC) as well as the molestation of the journalists and other media professionals working in the establishment by a mob.
“IPC equally condemns the assault on some security personnel attached to Channels Television that led to temporary halting of broadcasts by the station.
“IPC also decries the attack on Toyin Yusuf, a journalist with Osun State Broadcasting Corporation and another member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists by some angry youths while covering the protests in the state,” the organisation said.
It further condemns the prevention of an Arise TV crew from carrying out their legitimate duty at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, by a group of soldiers also today, Wednesday, October 21.
Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, warned that molestation of journalists and other media professionals either by the security agents, mobs or protesters was not acceptable:
Legitimacy to Report
“The media and journalists have the legitimacy to report the current crisis across the country with a view to bringing truthful account to the citizens and under no circumstances should they be subjected to hardship in the course of doing that. We therefore condemn in totality the various attacks so far recorded and demand that they should stop,” he said.
According to Mr.Arogundade, the security agents should instead of firing live bullets at peaceful protesters confront those engaging in arson with a view to bringing them to justice.
He enjoined the security operatives to take necessary actions to ensure a safe environment for journalists and other media professionals to carry out their duties unhindered while enforcing the curfew imposed in Lagos and some other states.
Imperative for Journalists
Mr.Arogundade also said it was “imperative for journalists covering and reporting the #EndSARS protests and the fall out to stick to the principles of good and conflict sensitive journalism that require balance, shunning of bias, avoidance of hate speech, discipline of verification, fact checking, use of reliable sources, giving voice to victims and the affected, and thorough investigation of claims and counter-claims.”
Attack on The Nation
Narrating how the office of The Nation Newspapers was attacked, its Editor, Mr Adeniyi Adesina said, “Armed men on motorcycles invaded the headquarters of The Nation on Fatai Atere Way, Matori, Lagos on Wednesday afternoon.
“In a commando-like manner, they kicked their way into the premises after scaring away security men on duty, brandishing their sophisticated guns. They poured petrol on the frontage of the building and set fire to it.
“Some of the vehicles parked within the premises were set ablaze, others vandalised. Many boys came thereafter and swooped on the office, looting everything they could lay their hands on. These include desktop computers, laptops, air conditioners and other office equipment.
“At the time of the attack, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief Mr. Victor Ifijeh, was among those trapped within the office while the fire raged on.
“They were evacuated when men of Operation Mesa security outfit arrived. Their arrival ended the free rein of the invaders. It was obviously a targeted attack on the free press.
“The Nation had been listed on Twitter and other social media platforms by sympathisers of the ongoing destructive activities, as a target of attack. The Nation has robustly reported the protests fairly, giving voice to the agitation of youths for a better Nigeria. The management is at a loss as to why the company should be a target of such unwarranted attack,” he said.