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Attacks on Nigerian Journalists

In Nigeria, it is perhaps not the best of times to be a journalist or civil rights activist going by the spate of attacks on freedom of the press and speech. While attacks on Nigerian journalists is no longer a new phenomenon, they appear to have taken a turn for concern in recent months. The year 2018 was initially recorded by the analysis to have witnessed the highest number of attacks (58) and since then, the attacks on Nigerian journalist are on a continues rise.
Let’s look at the series of events, that Nigerian Journalists have witnessed in the last couple of months.

On April 24 2020, Nigerian police arrest, detain 2 journalists in Ebonyi state.
On May 19 2020, A Nigerian journalist detained by security forces interrogated over sources.
On May 28 2020, A Nigerian journalist Kufre Carter detained for 1 month, charged with defamation and conspiracy.
On June 9 2020, A Nigerian journalist went into hiding after police arrest and question 5 reporters about his whereabouts.
On June 10 2020, A Nigerian journalist held under cybercrime act for COVID-19 coverage.
On June 30 2020, Nigerian journalist Ike-Jacobs Nwosu was beaten at Imo state legislature.
On August 11 2020, Nigerian journalist Sikiru Obarayese attacked by police while covering COVID-19 lockdown.

“The attack by police on journalist Sikiru Obarayese is an alarming reminder of the Nigerian police’s willingness to target the press for doing their jobs,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists must be free to report on how authorities enforce COVID-19 response measures, and those responsible for violence against the public and the media must be held accountable.”

And most recently on August 24 2020, Nigerian court acquits journalists arrested amid #RevolutionNow protests.

A magistrate court in Nigeria’s southern Cross River State today acquitted Cross River Watch news editor Jonathan Ugbal and managing editor Jeremiah Archibong on charges of unlawful assembly and breach of peace stemming from their 2019 protest coverage, according to news reports and Ugbal, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

“Today’s decision to acquit Nigerian journalists Jonathan Ugbal and Jeremiah Achibong is a welcome one, but they never should have been arrested or had criminal charges hang over them for more than a year,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Too often, journalists in Nigeria are arrested and then made to endure further intimidation designed to criminalize their work amid lengthy delays in the justice system.”

In 2019, when the attacks were on peak, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Nigerian authorities to “investigate and hold accountable the police officers” who allegedly beat and threatened journalists.

Nigeria was one of the focal points for discussion when over 200 journalists across Africa gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for a conference on free speech and freedom of expression in September 2019.

The reporters met to discuss the renewed onslaught on journalists and activists across the continent. At the end of the conference, the reporters sent a clear message to African governments to end attacks on journalists and free speech in their respective domains.

They also urged the government to put in place deliberate policies aimed at protecting journalists.

“We condemn the incarceration and killing of journalists in nations like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Conakry and other African nations,” part of the communique read.

“We condemn the arrest and murder of several African journalists. Governments should guarantee the safety and welfare of journalists who are the defenders of democracy.”

The reporters had gathered in honour of Norbert Zongo, a journalist who was killed while investigating the unresolved death of David Ouédraogo.

Amid the ongoing literal pandemic, where the world is finding its reorder in the chaos, the journalists of Nigeria are still fighting for their life, if not their freedom of speech.

By Karishma Gwalani

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