Stakeholders, Editors Want Perpetrators of Impunity Against Journalists Punished

…Say Networking, Solidarity Building Vital to Counter Threats of Violence, Crimes Against Journalists …Ask Governments to Make Deliberate, Sustained Efforts to Promote Safe Environment for Journalists Stakeholders at a virtual Media Roundtable and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), have demanded for the investigation and punishment of those involved in acts of harassment and impunity

…Say Networking, Solidarity Building Vital to Counter Threats of Violence, Crimes Against Journalists

…Ask Governments to Make Deliberate, Sustained Efforts to Promote Safe Environment for Journalists

Stakeholders at a virtual Media Roundtable and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), have demanded for the investigation and punishment of those involved in acts of harassment and impunity against journalists.

They note that, “The harassment and impunity against journalists especially sexual harassment of female journalists will not end until perpetrators are investigated and punished.”

The roundtable also posit that, “Networking and solidarity building are required amongst journalists for strategic advocacy and to counter threats of violence and crimes against journalists, particularly women, towards protecting freedom of expression for all.”

A communique issued at the end of the National Media Virtual Roundtable on “Actioning Safety and Protection of Women Journalists in Nigeria: Reflections and Recommendations” organised by ActionAid Nigeria, in commemoration of 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, say “Police or security operatives’ invitation of journalists on the basis of news reports is a form of harassment.”

“There are ways to address concerns regarding published stories. Rather than have security agencies arrest journalists, they should write to the media organisations and provide their own side of the story,” they contend.

Speakers at the event include Ms Ladi Bala, president, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ); Mr Oba Adeoye, anchor and producer with Arise News TV; Mr Theophilus Abbah, programme director, Daily Trust Foundation; Ms Omolola Oladimeji, team leader, Women in Media Development Initiative (WIMDI), and the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ms Ene Obi.

The stakeholders also observed that, “The lack of a protective policy or legal framework deters harassed or abused journalists from reporting for fear of safety.

“The impunity, brutality, physical and verbal assaults against journalists have continued because perpetrators rarely openly get punished.

“The lack of supporting structure and framework by senior female journalists in mentoring and supporting younger female journalists in the profession is a drawback in protecting and enhancing the confidence of the younger journalists to face the harsh working environment of the profession.

“The female journalists who suffer sexual harassment in the newsroom usually lack sufficient evidence to make their case; some also keep quiet about such abuses for fear of losing their jobs especially if the harassment is from a senior member of the organisation.

“There still exist within some media organisations issues of lack of inclusion of female journalists in covering certain assignments considered to be for male colleagues; female journalists are still viewed from the lenses of gender while assigning beats to cover.

“Issues of cyber bullying of journalists on the basis of their report is also seen to be increasing in Nigeria.”

They recommended that, “Mainstreaming of Gender Policy in the Newsroom: Media organisations should develop and be willing to implement robust gender inclusive policy to guide against sexual harassment and intimidation of journalists especially female journalists.

“The gender policy must ensure a measure of gender balance in the leadership structure of the organisations.

“There should be a formulation of legal and ethical frameworks that are designed to checkmate gender biases and discrimination against journalists.

“Organisations such as NUJ, NAWOJ, NGE and other allied pro-media organisations should lead this campaign with support from professional and development networks including FIDA to develop draft legislation.

“Media owners should constantly engage journalists on hostile environment training so as to adequately prepare and minimise the exposure of journalists to risks while reporting in conflict or high hazard environments.

“NAWOJ and WIMDI, among others, should engage in more sensitisations and awareness campaign to encourage women journalists who come under attack to speak out; the institutions must also provide a shield for journalists who have been/or are being harassed by security operatives or in their media organisations

“Media organisations need to institute workplace policies covering the welfare of journalists, this is to include health insurance as well as active sexual harassment and abuse policies to protect journalists against sexual abuse and intimidation within the media the organisation.

“Media organisations should be willing to support and pursue to logical conclusions cases involving journalists who are involved in any form of intimidation and harassment while carrying out their duties.

“Media organisations should first ensure the economic protection of the journalists working with them, and that the journalists should be properly engaged as staff. This will bolster the confidence of the journalist and make them report incidences of harassment in or outside the media organisation without fear of intimidation or reprisal attack.

“The police, law enforcement agents and security agencies should be properly sensitised to understand how to accord and treat female journalists with respect and dignity,”

On its part, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) called on government at all levels to make deliberate and sustained efforts to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work freely.

The editors also reminded the government that attacks on journalists have destructive effect on dissemination of information and helpful debate in a democratic space. They expressed concern over the way journalists are increasingly subjected to all forms of threats, including kidnapping, torture, physical attacks and other forms of harassments.

In a statement issued on Monday by its President, Mr Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Mr Iyobosa Uuwgiaren, the NGE also called on the security agencies to immediately locate a missing a journalist, Mr. Tordue Salem; investigate all forms of attacks against journalists – with the sole purpose of prosecuting the offenders.

Mr. Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, who covers the House of Representatives, has been declared missing in the past few weeks.

The United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed every November 2 as the ‘’International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The resolution urges Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.

This milestone resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. And also urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.

While expressing worry over refusal by the appropriate authorities to properly investigate threats of violence and attacks against journalists in the past few years, the NGE said that it is very troubling for an adult like Mr. Salem to just vanish into thin air for the past three weeks without a trace.

Giving instances of attacks against journalists in the past two years, the Guild said that on October 11, last years, Gimba Kakanda, a columnist with Daily Trust newspaper, was attacked by police officers, when he tried to pick up his car near the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja.

Also on October 11, 2020, the police violently attacked Arise Television cameraman, Francis Ogbonna, and a reporter, Ferdinand Duruoha, while they were covering protests in Abuja.

‘’We also have on record how some unknown gunmen – on October 12, 2020, attacked Television Continental presenter, Theophilus Elamah, in the chest and forced him and the cameraman he was working with, Julius Idowu, to leave the protest area.

‘’On October 17, 2020, Oluwatoyin Yusuf, a reporter with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), was attacked by unidentified men while covering a protest in Oshogbo, the state capital.

‘’Also on October 21, 2020 in Lagos, unknown men attacked the offices of Lagos State Television (LTV) and the TVC broadcaster.

‘’While covering the October 21 attack on TVC, Ayo Makinde, a reporter with the privately owned Channels Television broadcaster was assaulted by unidentified people’’, the Guild added.

The NGE reminded politicians, government officials and security agents that while they like to present their success stories and their opinions, using the media to gain public respect and widen their authority; the media’s role is to question them critically, and hold them accountable to the people.

‘’If journalists are to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities earnestly and robustly, politicians, government officials and security agents must treat them respectfully. They must ensure regular flow of information and frank dispassionate approach in dealing with journalists’’, the editors stated.

Aside from deadly attacks, the NGE said that it has also noticed ‘’anti-media rhetoric’’ by some politicians and senior government officials – that is hostile to the media.

According to the NGE, ‘’This anti-media rhetoric has lent a hand to a sense of resentment against journalists, and contributed hugely to questioning of trust in the media, and creating a susceptible working atmosphere for journalists and media workers.

‘’We have also noticed that some members of the National Assembly are using prerogatives of so-called ‘’fake news’’ as a doubtful justification to propose amendments to media laws – with intention to criminalise journalism practice in Nigeria, curtail freedom of expression, suffocate democratic space and muzzle journalists in particular.’’

The editors reiterated that the media is neither a political rival nor opponent of the government; but an institution recognised by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution to at all times hold public officials accountable to the people and promotes good governance.

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