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Committee To Protect Journalists Tasks Buhari On Journalists’ Safety
By Samuel Malik
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that journalists in the country get the protection they require to effectively carry out their functions.
The CPJ made the call in a letter congratulating the President on his electoral victory and urged him to “take steps to ensure that journalists are able to work freely and openly in the country without fear of reprisal of any form.”
The letter, signed by CPJ’s Executive Director, Joel Simon, reminded the President of his inauguration speech, in which he descried the country’s press as “the most vibrant in Africa”, adding that the President’s promised fight against insurgency, corruption and other problems bedevilling the country can best be achieved if press freedom is prioritised, “so that journalists may ask questions and expose corruption at all levels of society without fear of harassment or intimidation.”
The New York-based CPJ also welcome the President’s assurance during his inauguration that security agents would be held accountable, particularly with regards to human rights abuses.
“Security forces are the most frequent perpetrators of violations against the press, according to the Lagos-based International Press Centre, which found that Nigerian police and security forces were responsible for 24 of at least 32 cases of attacks on journalists between November 2014 and February this year. No one has been brought to justice, the IPC said. The CPJ has also documented other physical attacks, threats, and intimidation of local and international journalists seeking to cover the news,” it said.
“In a weeklong siege in June 2014, soldiers and agents of the Nigerian State Security Service disrupted the operations of nearly a dozen independent newspapers under the guise of fighting terrorism, according to CPJ research. Federal troops across the country seized and destroyed newspaper deliveries, confiscated editions, and took over media vehicles.”
The non-profit organisation further went on to explain some of the dangers journalists in the country have had to contend with in the past.
According to it, not less than 10 journalists have been murdered because of the work since 1992, with a further nine killed in unclear circumstances, with no person prosecuted. This, according to CPJ, ranks Nigeria second, behind Somalia, as “Africa’s worst record of unpunished murders of journalists.”
“In 2014, Nigeria ranked 12th on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free,” the letter added.
The President was reminded of his promise during campaign when he visited the Nigerian Press Organisation in Abuja and told the journalists: “The Nigerian media will be free under our [All Progressives Congress] government… The health of Nigeria’s democracy rests partly on you. Without a robust and thriving media, the masses would have no voice.”
CPJ also reminded the President of the attack on Daily Trust’s reporter in Nasarawa State, Joseph Hir, on May 29 during Governor Tanko Almakura’s inauguration. The attack by suspected supporters of the governor, it said, reportedly took place not far from where the governor, a member of the President’s All Progressive Congress, APC, took his oath of office.
The letter further asked the President to work towards abolishing the “outdated laws” that criminalise defamation, particularly with regards to journalists, saying “Journalists are critics—not criminals.”