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Press Freedom: 160 journalists in Nigeria were attacked in two years


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NIGERIA ranks 115th of 180 countries on the 2020 Global Press Freedom Index, as 160 journalists were attacked in the past two years. For the dismal record, Nigeria deserves a “badge of dishonour”, says a report recently published Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ.

The press freedom report was developed from cases collated through the Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool designed to track and report attacks on the press.

The report also showed that the attacks on journalists and the media were multi-dimensional with physical harassment and arrests being more prevalent. However, the perpetrators of the attacks are mostly government officials, state institutions, security agencies and political parties.

North-Central region of the country recorded the highest number of attacks on the press with 47 attacks when compared to the five other geopolitical zones.

North East region, the Nigerian hotbed for terrorism activities, ironically recorded the least attack on the press in the country.

“Between July 2019 and January 2020, two journalists were shot dead in Abuja, the country’s capital, while covering protests by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

“The reality is reflected in a deeper look at the cities with the highest volume of attacks, with the FCT hosting 73 per cent of all attacks in the region. This is likely a pointer to the government’s attitude towards the freedom of the press and its constitutionally guaranteed rights to hold the powerful to account,” the report said.

Nigeria dropped from 111 in 2015 to 116 in 2016 and fell to 122 in 2017, entering the “red zone” for press freedom. It then bounced back to 119 in 2018, then dropping to 120 in 2019.

Since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, the country’s press freedom ratings have been steadily fluctuating, however, the latest rise on its ranking still puts the country within the “red zone” for press freedom.

The “red zone” for press freedom is a situation in countries where press freedom is classified as “bad”.

Adenike Aloba, Program Manager at PTCIJ said the improvement in the country’s rating does not reflect the country’s growth since the situation was still bad for press freedom.

“Nigeria’s ranking on the Press Freedom Index continues to sit in the red zone, ranking 115 in the 2020 ranking, an improvement on its 2019 ranking but no less solidly red, the colour used to identify countries that earn the badge of ‘bad,” she said.

Lanre Arogundade, executive director of the International Press Centre,  in his review of the report, said examining the report makes it obvious why Nigeria still belongs to the batch of countries that have  done poorly on the press freedom index.

He said the report wants the citizens to “consciously” fight for a free space to avoid permanently staying at the cross-roads and worst still, be perpetually subjugated.

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The report also highlighted the fine of N3 million levied against each AIT, Channels TV and Arise TV for allegedly broadcasting unverified information about the #EndSARS protests.

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