THE Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has said government agents, including security operatives and other state actors, are the worst perpetrators of violence against journalists in the country.
The NGE said the number of attacks on journalists by non-state actors is not as high as those carried out by agents of the government.
Secretary of the NGE, Iyabosa Uwagiaren, made the assertion while speaking at a media training in Abuja themed: ‘Protecting Press Freedom, Ensuring Journalists Safety’, on Thursday, June 8. He said the continuous attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists threaten press freedom in Nigeria.
The training was organised by the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) in collaboration with the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
According to the NGE scribe, attacks on journalists are often carried out by security personnel and other state actors whose role is to protect citizens.
Uwagiaren noted that security agencies have a huge role in lessening attacks on journalists.
“Press freedom is under threat globally, including Nigeria. Journalists and editorial support workers are attacked, intimidated, harassed and even killed for their constitutional responsibility. Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution says the media or the press shall at all times hold public officers accountable to the people.
“Most of the attacks against journalists are carried out by security agencies. While non-state actors are involved in attacks against journalists, most attacks are carried out by security operatives and state actors.”
He maintained that journalists are always susceptible to attacks while trying to hold power holders accountable.
To address the problem, Uwagiaren called for the creation of good laws to promote and protect press freedom, as well as advocacy against attacks on journalists in the country.
“Advocacy is a key tool and will reassure those responsible to put press freedom higher on their political agenda and take active action.”
In the same vein, he assured that the NGE would work to protect and fight for the interests of journalists alongside other media organisations, noting that it is essential that journalists discharge their duty free from violence and impediment.
Uwagiaren added that the NGE would partner with the CJID to ensure the safety of Nigerian journalists
“Let me assure you, we will partner with the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) in due course for the safety of Journalists.
“When we take the security of journalists into account in all our programs, we must take concrete strategies to react not only when journalists are kidnapped or killed but also to prevent criminal action against journalists from happening,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, CJID project officer, Media Freedom, Benedicta Akpede, expressed concern about increased attacks on journalists.
She noted that despite the advocacy done over the years, “the number keeps increasing”
“In the first quarter of 2023 alone, we have recorded 45 attacks against journalists. This is higher than what was recorded in the half of 2022.
“We have recorded or tracked 21 journalists killed over the years. The sad thing is that the people responsible for these attacks go unpunished.
“Most attacks were a result of the presidential and governorship election. There were arrests, physical assaults, equipment damage, sanctions and the Strategic Litigations Against Public Participation (SLAPPS),” she said.
Similarly, the Executive Director of The ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, advised media organisations in the country to be law-abiding in order to be less susceptible to targeted attacks.
He warned media organisations against the evasion of taxes.
“Media organisations should always pay tax and comply with all tax regulations so they won’t hold you against it. When there’s an issue, that’s the first thing they’re always after.”
He also advised that media organisations should provide support to their journalists who have been victims of attacks.