As part of the quest for a free and safe environment for journalists and other media professionals in Nigeria, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria on Thursday 28 of April, 2016, launched the Nigeria Journalists’ Safety Initiative (NJSI) at a media roundtable and tweet-a-thon (tweet conference) on safety of journalists. The initiative is supported by
As part of the quest for a free and safe environment for journalists and other media professionals in Nigeria, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria on Thursday 28 of April, 2016, launched the Nigeria Journalists’ Safety Initiative (NJSI) at a media roundtable and tweet-a-thon (tweet conference) on safety of journalists.
The initiative is supported by the Open Society Foundation through a project on documentation, capacity building and advocacy on the safety of journalists.
The launch and roundtable was attended by mass communication scholars, media experts, editors and reporters from print, broadcast and online media as well as journalism students and civil society activists. Two journalists – who are facing threats over their investigative reports, were also present to share their harrowing experience.
The proceedings were streamed live via twitter (#safetyofjournalistsng) as well as on facebook.
Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade told the gathering that NJSI arose out of concern over continuing violation of journalists’ rights in Nigeria through attacks, arrests, abductions among others. It also builds on previous related endeavours such as a 2015 project on ‘Baseline Audit On State Of Safety Of Journalists In Nigeria’ implemented with the support of UNESCO’s Regional office in Nigeria.
The underlying principle of the initiative therefore is the need to promote higher safety consciousness through engagements with media and other stakeholders including the law enforcement agencies.
According to the IPC Director, NJSI activities encompass monitoring and documentation of attacks on journalists in Nigeria; running a safety alert and help desk for journalists under threat; creating better awareness about safety through Online safety manual; Capacity building and other forms of engagement with journalists and media outlets on safety of journalists; Joint plans of action with relevant stakeholders on journalists safety; publishing of an annual compendium on the state of safety of journalists in Nigeria and holding of commemorative activities to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
Among the current activities of the initiative are the tracking/documentation of incidents and trends of attacks on journalists, the running of a Journalists’ Safety alert online campaign (https://www.facebook.com/Nigerian-Journalists-Safety-Alert-NJSA-505542836300068/?fref=ts), and the establishment of a help desk and hotline (+2348162206470). Journalists facing threats or attacks are expected to make use of the hotline to drop information on their situation following which IPC would take necessary action.
Gbemiga Ogunleye, lawyer, former editor and Provost of Nigerian Institute of Journalism, (NIJ), who was the chair of the launch and roudtable highlighted the importance of journalism noting that it is the only profession constitutionally allowed to check the excesses of government officials in Nigeria
Ogunleye was alluding to section 22 of the Nigerian constitution which obligates the media to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people.
He regretted that since the1986 murder of Dele Giwa, the founding Editor-In-Chief of the Newswatch magazine, many more journalists have equally been killed in the course of duty including Enenche Akogwu of Channels Television, Bayo Ohu of The Guardian; Abayomi Ogundeji and Godwin Agbroko both of Thisday; Bagauda Kaltho of The News; Tunde Oladepo of The Guardian and a female journalist, Bolade Fasasi.
Ogunleye argued that when journalists are intimidated, attacked or killed, not only their media, family or loved ones suffer, but the nation too suffers collateral damage. He stated that acts of repression against journalists hit at the soul of freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive and seek information, he therefore called for greater protection for media professionals.
In his speech, Peter Nkanga, West Africa Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted that attacks on the press have reached historic highs. Over 1200 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992 he disclosed stressing that. Journalists reporting on conflict situations are particularly vulnerable.
Giving the breakdown of CPJ Research, he said the Complete Impunity in the murder of journalist’s worldwide remains almost at 100%. The most covered beats by victims are Politics (47%), War (38%), Human Rights (21%), Corruption (20%), Crime (15%), among others. He stated further that at least 199 journalists were jailed worldwide as of December 1, 2015, and no fewer than 452 journalists forced into exile in the past 5 years due to work-related persecution, with Radio journalists being as much victims as television, print, and online journalists.
Bayo Ohu, News Editor/Political reporter, The Guardian Newspaper. He was killed September 20, 2009. NUJ members told CPJ that Ohu was likely killed for his political reporting.
Benedict Uwalaka, Photojournalist was attacked by TOS Funerals and staff on August 9, 2012 for covering the release of the remains of plane crash victims to their families.
Yomi Olomofe, Publisher, Prime Magazine, faced attempted murdered on June 25, 2015 around 3:30pm within Customs premises at Nigeria-Benin (Seme) border, he was later reportedly detained by men of the Nigeria Police, “after some men he had accused of severely beating him alleged he had assaulted and attempted to extort money from them, and since ten months ago there has been no justice.
Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna, a Freelance journalist, winner of 2015 gold award of the United Nations foundation prize for development and Humanitarian coverage, has been threatened, intimidated and harassed since February 2016 allegedly by Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho a former interior minister for reporting the alleged illegal dredging of a company in Lagos. She also lost her job with a state broadcast media.Tina was one of the journalists who narrated her ordeal, tearfully, to the audience.
Kehinde Ajayi, Treasurer of the Lagos State branch of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) who stood in for the chairman explained that safety is essential to the journalism profession while observing that safety does not mean absence of danger, but being protected from it. She added journalism continues to be a very dangerous profession both in the peaceful arena and conflict zone because politicians, economic and religious groups still see journalists as impostors who have no business reporting “critical issues” that affect them.
Ajayi called on media houses to make safety of journalist their watchword while the journalists themselves should be aware of the risks of their job and take necessary precautions. She tasked journalists to know their rights and limitations when reporting, and also be conversant with the Freedom of Information Act and know how to use it as whistle blowers that must be exempted from being penalized. She also enjoined them to be prepared mentally, physically and psychologically before engaging on any assignment that can be dangerous.
According to her, NUJ has contributed to safety awareness among journalists through collaboration on trainings with UNESCO and other stakeholders such as Nigeria Press Council, National Broadcasting Commission, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, etc
Also speaking at the event Victoria Ibanga who is the General Secretary of the Nigeria Guild of Editors opined that journalists all over Nigeria are vulnerable. Her words: “We are vulnerable in the sense that our profession demands that we interface between the government and the people on a daily basis. In essence, we are in danger, we are endangered species, and we are as vulnerable as soldiers at the war front”
Despite this, she disclosed that NGE takes safety of journalists safely and would welcome partner with stakeholders to bring an end to incessant cases of attacks and killing of journalists.