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Promoting Good Governance.

Endangered Voices: Amnesty International calls on FG to stop attacks on journalists

AMNESTY International, a global human rights non-governmental organisation in a 2019 report tagged “ENDANGERED VOICES” which was released on Monday, announced that journalists in Nigeria are increasingly becoming exposed to escalated attacks from Nigerian authorities.

The report also chronicled several incidents involving Nigerian journalists where they were intimidated, harassed and arbitrarily arrested by Nigerian authorities for expressing critical views on issues of governance.

In a statement, Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria said government’s continued intimidation of the press has created a climate of fear in the Nigerian journalism space.

“Increasingly, the human rights cost of receiving and sharing information for journalists, bloggers and activists come with dangerous consequences, forcing journalists, bloggers, and activists to operate in a climate of fear.

“Journalists, bloggers and activists are facing increased risks simply for publishing articles and demanding accountability from the authorities.  This is totally unacceptable. The authorities must immediately put an end to this hostility towards human rights,” she said.

The global rights group examined the cases of journalists who had been detained or threatened in the past five years in the report. It also unearthed a disturbing trend of increased attacks on Nigerian journalists by security agencies.

The security agencies who topped the list in the nefarious include the Nigeria Police Force, the military and officials of the Department of State Services, DSS.

The report highlighted high profile cases of journalists who have been victimised by security agencies for expressing critical views which could influence public opinion on issues of national security, elections or high-profile corruption.

The report which contains damning evidence revealed that at least 19 journalists were detained at various times this year in what it termed a clampdown on freedom of expression and media freedom in Nigeria.

On 23 July 2016, Abiri Jones, publisher of Weekly Source, was arrested by members of the DSS and held in seclusion without access to his family or lawyers for two years. He was released on 15 August 2018 before he was rearrested on 20 May 2018 before being arraigned on charges for terrorism and cybercrimes.

Ja’afar Ja’afar, a journalist at the Daily Nigerian received several death threats against himself and family after publishing videos of a serving governor allegedly receiving kickbacks.

 Kofi Bartels, a broadcast journalist with Nigeria Info 92.3 FM, based in Port Harcourt, was assaulted in June by police officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS after he was arrested, detained and tortured for attempting to film police beating up a teenager.

Mary Ekere, Saifullah Mika’ilu also had a fair share of the excesses of the Nigerian police when they were physically assaulted and detained for carrying out their jobs.

Amnesty International also outlined media houses that have been targeted by security forces for being critical of the government in their reportage.

In January, two reporters from the Daily Trust newspaper had their computers and mobile phones confiscated by the military. Also the facilities of Breeze FM in Lafia, Nassarawa State and Fresh FM in Ibadan, Oyo State were demolished by state authorities for non-compliance with land administration laws.

Osai Ojigho urged the Nigerian government to fulfill its obligatory role of providing an atmosphere devoid of fear for its citizens.

“Nigerian authorities pay lip service to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom by intimidating, harassing journalists and media organizations. This must stop, and the government must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right of people to share information and end the climate of fear and repression across the country,” she said.

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