In the line of duty: 39 Nigerian journalists harassed in 2023

AT least 39 Nigerian journalists were harassed across the country by state and non-state actors in 2023.

About half of the incidents occurred during the 2023 general elections held between February and March.

ICIR executive director, 18 others attacked while covering elections

The ICIR’s Executive Director, Dayo Ayetan, was assaulted by thugs while covering the exercise in Gwagwalada on February 25. He was beaten up by his assailants, who tore his clothes and stole his phone, car key, purse and a pouch containing his debit cards, driver’s licenses and other items.

The founder of WikkiTimes, Haruna Salisu, was detained during the February poll in Bauchi.

In Nasarawa, officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) attacked a journalist with Breeze FM in Lafia, Edwin Philip, while reporting the governorship and state House of Assembly elections in Nasarawa on March 18.

On the same day, a journalist with Premier Radio Ashiru Umar was attacked by armed thugs while covering the poll in the Gwale local government area of Kano state.

A journalist with People’s Gazette, Adebola Ajayi, was harassed by hoodlums, some of whom wore vests branded with the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Lagos. Her phone was seized, and some information on the phone was deleted.

In March, a cameraman and other crew members with Arise TV were assaulted around the Elguishi palace in Lagos. The cameraman sustained facial injuries, and his equipment was seized.

Youths in the Oyo state capital, Ibadan, attacked a vehicle conveying at least two reporters with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) during the general elections.

In Bayelsa, supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) attacked three journalists covering elections, including Akam James, a Daily Post correspondent, Upfront News magazine Publisher, Princewill Sede, and Jeany Metta, the Managing Editor.

Thugs in Delta state injured judiciary correspondent with The Cable, Bolanle Olabimtan. Her phone was seized, and her assailants deleted images.

In Rivers state, the Police detained a reporter with Punch newspaper and threatened to shoot him during the elections. He was driven around Port Harcourt city, and images taken with his phone were deleted before he was released.

Five observers from the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) were assaulted in Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Lagos and Osun states while covering the elections. The observers are Taiwo Fatola, Abiodun Jamiu, Adesola Ikulajolu and Richard Ekeke.

WikiTimes Editor detained for exposing terrorism financing, illegal mining

In September, WikkiTimes Editor Yakubu Mohammed came under surveillance by officials of the Nigeria Police Force, who placed him on their watch list after he published a report that exposed terrorism funding and illegal mining in Niger state.

His investigation exposed how Chinese-allied miners operating under the licenses of Eso Terra Investment Limited and Majelo Global Resources Limited were stealing Nigeria’s natural resources while allegedly bribing armed bandits of the Dogo Gide group.

Officials of the Bauchi and Niger States Police Command tracked Yakubu’s phone lines along with those of his wife, friend and colleagues, whom they threatened and described as sub-targets.

Police detain journalists in Kwara on orders of state gov’t

Two journalists in Kwara, Abdulrazaq Babatunde, publisher of Just Events Online and Lukman Oluwatoyin Bolakale, publisher of Satcom Media, were detained by the Police for ten days in September 2023 based on the orders of state government officials.

Their detention followed a petition written against them by Monsurah Gafar, immediate past Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to the state Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who alleged that a story they published based on a press release by another government official, Rotimi Adebowale, was defamatory.

Court remands Agba Jalingo over allegations of false publication

In March, the Publisher of Cross River Watch, Agba Jalingo, was remanded in prison by a Federal High Court in the FCT over a report published against Elizabeth Frank Ayade, sister-in-law to the state governor at the time, Ben Ayade.

Ayade also demanded N500 million as compensation.

Jalingo was apprehended in August 2022 by security operatives who laid siege to his Lagos residence for hours and moved him to Abuja after the arrest.

The journalist has been detained several times previously, including in 2021, when officials of the Cross River State Police command arrested him over a planned June 12 protest. He was granted bail days later with stringent conditions, including a N500,000 bail bond and a surety who must own a landed property within the FCT.

Police arrest Imo journalist

In July, police officials in Imo arrested a broadcast journalist in the state, Chinonso Uba, known to be critical of the government under the administration of Hope Uzodimma.

When he was apprehended, it was unclear if the arrest was connected to his work, as the security operatives gave no reason.

Premium Times reporter detained for filming at Supreme Court

On Friday, May 26, Police officers detained a Premium Times reporter, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, at the Supreme Court Police station for over four hours.

Ejekwonyilo was arrested for recording a tussle between a policewoman and a woman in court witnessing proceedings. Though Police authorities had stated that it was not a crime to record a public scene, the reporter was apprehended by the security operatives and his phone was seized.

Six journalists attacked while covering clashes in Bayelsa

At least six journalists were attacked by armed men in the Opu-Nembe area of Bayelsa state while covering clashes between the community youths and their leaders.

The journalists attacked are Joseph Kunde, Miebi Binafiai, Awe Baratuapere, Ayebakuro Rhodes Egein, Iniyekenime Bruce and Folaranmi Femi, who work with different media organisations.

Some of the journalists were assaulted and robbed of their equipment, and Binafiai lost a tooth in the process. Others sustained different degrees of injuries while fleeing the scene.

Man in military uniform, others attack ICIR journalist

In April, a man in military uniform and a woman, who identified themselves as soldiers of the Nigerian Army, led a mob action against a journalist with The ICIR, Sinafi Omanga.

The journalist had noticed a case of jungle justice against two men accused of stealing a mobile phone, which the military officials were a part of, and had picked up his device to record the incident when they pounced on him. He was robbed of at least N9,000 and other valuables in the process.

Police officer attacks journalist covering protest

Freelance photojournalist Ben Uwalaka, who reports for Daily Trust Newspaper, was attacked by a Police officer in Lagos while covering a protest by aviation workers in April.

The official injured Uwalaka on the hand and broke his camera’s screen, preventing its lens from re-attaching.

The assault came after Uwalaka refused to delete pictures taken during the protest as ordered by the officer, prompting him to seize the journalist’s camera, punch him in the hand several times and detain him at the nearby police station for nearly an hour.

Mob attack journalist covering Borno Market Fire

A reporter with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Pauline Kuje Vana, was attacked by a mob in February while covering a fire outbreak at the Maiduguri Monday Market in Borno state.

Vana and her crew were attacked by the mob while trying to file a live report on the incident.

FRSC officials attack ICIR journalist

Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officers attacked Mustapha Usman, a reporter with The ICIR, on Monday, September 18, and confiscated his identity card at Zone 7, Wuse, in Abuja.

Usman was beaten up by the officers while trying to record a video of them forcefully grabbing the steering wheel from a female driver and deflating her car tyres afterwards.

ICIR news editor detained for hours

Similarly, The ICIR news editor, Marcus Fatunmole, was detained for six hours by security operatives in the FCT in December while investigating a mass transportation scheme in city.

Although Fatunmole presented a valid identity card identifying him as The ICIR journalist, he was detained between 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. at the Eagle Square security outpost before eventually being taken to the Central Police Station, Federal Secretariat in Abuja.

PDP agents attack CrossRiverWatch editor

The editor of the CrossRiverWatch, Jonathan Ugbal, was attacked by PDP members while covering a protest by youths in a community around the party’s campaign office in Cross River state.

His devices were damaged, and he was robbed of some cash and his identity card.



    Katsina journalist assaulted by Police

    A female journalist with Cliqq TV in Katsina Rukayya Jibia was assaulted by policemen attached to the state Police command in May for speaking up against the parade of four young women arrested over alleged prostitution by the Police when the ladies had not been convicted or tried.

    Journalist receives death threats in Niger

    Niger state correspondent of Aljazeera newspapers, Samson Alfa, raised an alarm over threats to his life following his discovery of a facility suspected to have been used for rigging the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

    He said he had been receiving death threats via calls from politicians warning him to stay away from the story.

    In May, Nigeria dropped to 129th place from 120 on the global press freedom ranking index out of 180 countries ranked, with the civic space shrinking even more as journalists continue to face abuses while performing their duties.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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