…Say Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression Are Under Threat in Nigeria …Want Punishment for Perpetrators of Attacks Against Journalists …Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is Suffocating the Media …Calls for Review of Legislations Stifling a Free Press The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda and Article 19, have strongly deplored the rising cases
…Say Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression Are Under Threat in Nigeria
…Want Punishment for Perpetrators of Attacks Against Journalists
…Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is Suffocating the Media
…Calls for Review of Legislations Stifling a Free Press
The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda and Article 19, have strongly deplored the rising cases of assault on the media in Nigeria, calling for urgent investigation of all suspected cases of murder and attacks on journalists and diligent prosecution of the alleged perpetrators so as to halt the disturbing trend of impunity for crimes against journalists. They also say press freedom and freedom of expression remain endangered in the country.
The groups made the call for justice today as journalists, other media professionals and freedom of expression groups mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
In a statement by its Executive Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade, IPC said, “it was unfortunate that Nigeria continues to rank high among countries where press freedom and freedom of expression are under threat, stating that the recent database of attacks during the #ENDSARS protest reveals that not less than ten incidents of assault, invasion and brutalization were recorded.
- Television Continental (TVC), Lagos: The television station was attacked and partly burnt by hoodlums on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Journalists and media professionals working in the establishment were also molested by the hoodlums.
- Channels Television, Lagos: Security personnel attached with the station were assaulted, which led to the temporary halting of broadcast by the station on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
* Toyin Yusuf, Reporter, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation: He was attacked alongside with a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists by some angry youths while covering the protest in Osun.
* Arise Television, Lagos: A crew from the station were prevented from carrying out their legitimate duty at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, by a group of soldiers on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
* The Nation Newspaper, Lagos: the station was set on fire by hoodlums which halted activities in the organization on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
- Reporters with Punch Newspaper: Policemen in Lagos State tortured journalists with Punch Newspaper for covering the #End SARS protests.
* Africa Independent Television (AIT), Benin: The station was set on fire by hoodlums which halted activities in the organization on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
* Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC): The station was attacked by hoodlums. The hoodlums destroyed their gate and also built a bonfire in front of the state owned television station on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
* Akpokona Omafuaire of Vanguard Newspaper, Delta: He was brutalized by the Police, on his way to an official assignment during the curfew imposed by the Delta State Governor on Friday, October 23, 2020. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/10/police-attack-vanguard-reporter-damage-car-in-delta/
* Emmanuel Adeyemi of Sun Newspaper, Kogi: He was hit by a stray bullet and died on the spot on his way to the Nigerian Union of Journalists Press Centre in Lokoja on Monday, October 26, 2020.
Prior to the #EndSARS protest, IPC through its Journalists’ Safety Alert Desk documented fifty-nine (59) instances of attacks on journalists including unlawful arrests/detention, physical assaults, harassments, threat to life, battery, loss/damage of valuables and gadgets (cameras, phones, midgets, money) within a ten-month period. Some of the cases are:
- Alex Ogbu of The Regent African Time Magazine was shot by policemen and died at FCT Abuja on the 21st of January 2020.
- Olatunji Omirin of Daily Trust Newspaper was unlawfully arrested and detained by the Nigerian Military on the 30th of January 2020, at Maiduguri Borno State.
- Maxwell Nashan of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) was physically assaulted by suspected political thugs at Yola, Adamawa, on the 15th of January 2020.
- Vincent Ake, General Manager of the state-owned Tide Newspaper, in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State was sacked for publishing report on the first case of COVID-19 in Rivers State on 26th of March 2020. His sack was premised on the allegation that he didn’t first get the approval to publish from the Taskforce on Coronavirus set up by the state government.
- Norbert Amede, photojournalist with the Pointer newspapers in Delta State, on April 16, 2020, was manhandled by the Police in Ibusa, Oshimili North Local Government Area. He was physically wounded on the face and hospitalized for days.
- On May 19, 2020, Ivy Kanu of TVC News, Chuks Oluigbo of BusinessDay newspaper and 48 other essential workers were detained at Alausa Police station and their vehicles impounded by Policemen. Based on the Police officer’s interpretation that they had flouted the COVID-19 lockdown curfew.
- Barry Agbanigbi of Champion Newspaper was on July 27, 2020 barred from the Delta State Government House by the chief press secretary over a published report.
- Benjamin Ekom, former treasurer of NUJ Nasarawa State Council was murdered by unknown gunmen at his residence in Washo Village, Nasarawa on the 3rd of August 2020.
- Eyo Charles of Daily Trust Newspaper was on August 20, 2020 verbally assaulted by a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode at a press briefing in Calabar, Cross-River State.
Some of the attacks which were related to elections this year include:
- A mob claiming to be supporters of Godswill Akpabio, a Minister and candidate in the elections held on January 25, 2020, assaulted and destroyed the camera of Godwin Sunday, a television cameraman with the Global Pilot.
- Samson Adenekan of Premium Times and Nathaniel Offel of GeeTV were brutally attacked by thugs and detained for taking pictures and recording videos of irregularities during the Edo State election on 20th September 2020.
- Samuel Ajala, Maxwell Osita, Alamu Dolapo, among others were denied access to the collation centre at Ikpoba Okha Local Government, during the Edo State election on 20th September 2020.
Mr. Arogundade, said these were worrisome and unwelcome developments deserving the attention of all stakeholders in the media.
“We are calling for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists in Nigeria. We attach the highest priority to the safety of journalists and other media actors. We oppose any action, legislation, regulation or political pressure that limits freedom of the press. Acts of intimidation and violence against journalists in Nigeria have to end for democracy to survive. Attacks against media institutions and journalists are attacks against democratic rights including the right of the public to know the truth about the way they are governed,” Mr. Arogundade stressed.
IPC is also demanding justice for journalists who have been murdered and attacked in the line of duty. Some of the unresolved murdered cases include
* Dele Giwa, former Editor in Chief, Newswatch Magazine – October 19, 1986
* Bayo Ohu of The Guardian Newspaper – September 20, 2009
* Nathan S. Dabak & Sunday Gyang Bwede of The Light Bearer – April 24, 2010
* Zakariya Isa of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) – October 22, 2011
* Enenche Akogwu of Channels Television – January 20, 2012
* Alex Ogbu of The Regent Africa Time Magazine – January 21, 2020
* Emmanuel Adeyemi of Sun Newspaper – October 26, 2020
Mr. Arogundade called on the Police authorities to carry out the necessary investigations on these unresolved murder cases or in the alternative publicly disclose what has been done so far towards unraveling the mystery behind the killings.
He also said while the Government is expected to create the enabling environment for journalists to practice without fear, journalists and other media professionals should themselves pay greater attention to their personal safety by keeping abreast with various safety tips for journalists covering dangerous assignments.
Speaking in the same vein, MRA called on the Federal Government to facilitate the establishment of mechanisms to combat impunity for attacks and violence against media workers in order to ensure accountability for such acts and discourage future attacks.
In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, insisted that developing and implementing strategies for combatting impunity for attacks and violence against journalists and other media workers was one of the most effective ways of responding to the high incidence of crimes against journalists in the country and preventing future attacks.
He said: “Any failure on the part of government to take decisive action to end impunity for crimes against journalists and put mechanisms in place to respond to, punish perpetrators and prevent future attacks will create a vicious circle where journalists do not get justice for the crimes committed against them while the perpetrators are emboldened and will continue such attacks unchecked.”
Mr. Ojo outlined options open to the Government in developing and implementing such strategies to include the establishment of a multi-stakeholder independent commission; the creation of special investigative units; or the appointment of a special prosecutor as well as the adoption of specific protocols and methods for investigating cases and prosecuting the perpetrators of such attacks while also protecting journalists and media workers who are threatened.
He said the mandate of such a body or official would conceivably include conducting speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all cases of alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, such as physical attacks, assaults, cases of torture, unlawful arrests and detention, threats to life or of physical harm, seizure or destruction of professional equipment, and bringing the perpetrators to justice, including those who ordered the attacks, conspired to carry them out, aided and abetted or covered up such crimes. The mechanism would also ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate compensations, assistance and restitution.
Mr. Ojo called on the Federal Government to urgently convene a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the matter in detail, agree on the most effective national mechanism to be adopted and decide how it should operate as well as its powers and functions.
He called on the Government to fulfill its international obligations by launching a serious and transparent investigation into all unresolved cases of murders of journalists, noting that since the 1986 assassination of the former Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa, numerous journalists have been killed in the country and that in none of these cases have the perpetrators been identified, tried in court, convicted and punished for their crimes.
Mr. Ojo also observed that over the years, there have been hundreds of other cases of attacks on journalists, other media workers and media facilities which have not been seriously investigated and for which the perpetrators have not been prosecuted and punished.
According to him, “Over the last one month, we have witnessed attacks on journalists and media organizations in such numbers, with such intensity and brazenness never before seen in our recent history. While the government’s track record of respect for and protection of media freedom has never been remarkable, events in the past few weeks indicate an escalation in the attacks against the media that is extremely concerning.”
Mr. Ojo argued that the Government’s lukewarm attitude towards attacks on the media, even when government officials or security agents are not the perpetrators, is not only unhelpful to international efforts to combat impunity for crimes against journalists everywhere, but also constitutes an abdication of responsibility.
He contended that although journalists and media organizations are the immediate and primary victims of such attacks, given the important role that the media play in society, including in advancing democratic culture and practice, the ultimate losers are Nigerians in the wider society as most of them would remain ill-informed and even more susceptible to fake news, misinformation and disinformation.
Also ARTICLE 19 reveals in a briefing a significant increase in assaults, arrests and prosecution of the media in Nigeria compared to 2019, with 51 incidents in 2020 alone.
The attacks more than doubled in 2020. In the same period in 2019, at least 19 journalists and media professionals suffered attacks, including arrests, detention, assaults, threats, and seizure of equipment.
The key findings of the 51 crimes against in total 60 journalists, were documented from January to October 2020:
- Three journalists have been killed: one by security forces during a protest in Abuja and two by unknown persons in Adamawa and Nasarawa states.
- 34 journalists have been victims of assaults, including two female journalists. The assaults took place across the country, including in Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Edo and Rivers states and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
- 18 of these were assaulted for covering the nationwide #ENDSARS protests against police brutality in October 2020. In ten cases, a member of the national police force was the perpetrator.
- 12 journalists have been arrested. Half of them were released after a few days, but six were charged in court, mostly under the Terrorism or Cybercrime act.
- Three journalists were denied access to perform their work.
- Three media outlets have been attacked.
- Four media outlets were fined for their coverage.
The organisation claim security forces and government officials were behind the vast majority of these incidents, while eight attacks were by unknown ‘gunmen’ and six by political thugs. The authorities not only failed to protect journalists from attacks, but are increasingly trying to silence the media.
Condemning these violations of media freedom, the Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa, Fatou Jagne Senghore said:
“As we commemorate International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, I would like to urge the African Union and United Nations not to turn a blind eye to Nigeria. The climate in Nigeria is increasingly hostile for media and journalists, that I am pleading with the international community to support Nigeria to end impunity, protect journalists and strengthen the legal framework governing the media.
The complete impunity for crimes against journalists in Nigeria is suffocating the media. Without a free media, no country can realise the rights included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nigeria must act now.”
ARTICLE 19 urges Nigeria to set up an independent panel to investigate all the attacks against journalists as well as all cases of arrest and prosecution and review the legislation that is being used to stifle the media, such as the cybercrime act. All journalists that are currently in detention for doing their work, should be immediately released.
In 2020 we have seen an increase in arrests of bloggers and journalists under suspicion of ‘cyberstalking’. The government has abused this section of the Cybercrime act to “silence” opposition views in the online media. In addition, ARTICLE 19 received reports that countless other journalists have faced issues like equipment seizure or damages, intimidation and death threats.
Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa said:
“Attacking and injuring a journalist in the line of duty is unacceptable. The frequency at which Nigeria’s police and military attack and threaten journalists is very alarming. We strongly condemn the attacks against journalists.
This year, Nigeria needs to use International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists as an opportunity to improve this appalling record. The government must commit to end these attacks and amend its laws to enable a climate of free media and free speech. The government must provide justice and remedies to victims. They must make protection and security of journalists a national priority.”
ARTICLE 19 calls on the United Nations Special Rapporteurs of freedom of expression and opinion and on extrajudicial killings and the African Commission and Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and information to urge the Nigerian government to investigate these crimes and issue a joint recommendation, provide support for its implementation and monitor the progress.
Doing so will ensure Nigeria complies with its international human rights commitments. During its last UPR review in 2018, Nigeria committed to protect and promote freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and to create a safe and favourable environment for human rights defenders, journalists and civil society. Still, Nigeria has not put these commitments into practice.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in Resolution A/RES/68/163, adopted on December 18, 2013 in which it urged UN Member States to “do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into all alleged violence against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction and to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.”