Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today accused the Federal Government of encouraging attacks against journalists and media organizations by its failure to take measures to protect journalists and punish perpetrators of such attacks whom it noted are frequently security agents or other government officials.
Observing that at least seven media professionals and a media organization had fallen victim to various forms of attacks in about one week, with one journalist shot and injured by policemen, MRA said in a statement in Lagos that the Federal Government’s failure to act to stem such crimes against journalists was a direct cause of the heightened attacks against the media.
MRA’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, said in the statement: “The growing spate of attacks against the media is alarming and having a negative impact on freedom of expression as it is stifling the media environment, thereby, impeding the freedom and ability of journalists and media organisations to carry out their professional duties.”
Reminding the Federal Government that it has obligations under various regional and international instruments to ensure the safety of journalists and bring perpetrators of attacks against journalists to justice, he insisted that the Government’s failure to do so is not only encouraging more attacks against the media but also constitutes a breach of its treaty obligations.
Mr. Adewale said: “It should be a matter of embarrassment to the Federal Government that despite the extremely alarming rate of attacks and crimes against journalists, it cannot point to a single instance over the years, since the inception of this administration, where the perpetrators of such attacks have been arrested, prosecuted and punished.”
He noted that the perpetrators of recent attacks against the media have included law enforcement and security agencies, hoodlums, political thugs, separatist groups, criminal elements, among others, adding that “the Government’s inaction and apparent refusal to reprimand its officials who are guilty of such conduct, is clearly being interpreted as an open season for anyone who is so inclined to attack journalists.”
Mr. Adewale highlighted examples of recent attacks against the media to include:
· Mr. Oriyomi Hamzat, a journalist, Managing Director and founder of Agidigbo 88.7FM in Ibadan, Oyo State, who was arrested on May 26, 2022 by officers of the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police in Ibadan and taken to Abuja, after he honoured an invitation by the Oyo State Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police over a complaint to the police by a suspect in a murder trial which the radio station had consistently covered.
· Mr. Yinka Adeniran, the Nation newspaper’s reporter attached to the Oyo State Governor’s Office in Ibadan, who was on May 25, 2022 beaten up and had teargas sprayed directly into his eyes, nose and mouth by a police officer while he was covering the governorship primaries of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ibadan.
· An attack by gunmen on May 30, 2022 on the premises of the state-owned Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) in Awada, Onitsha, during which they brutalised and inflicted injuries on some of the staff, burnt down one of the station’s buildings as well as a company bus and another vehicle belonging to a staff of the station.
· The shooting by an operative of the Osun State Command of the Nigeria Police on May 31, 2022 of the Osun State Correspondent of the Nation newspaper, Mr. Toba Adedeji, while he was covering a students’ protest in Osogbo over the alleged extrajudicial killing of Mr. Abiola Afolabi who was killed by policemen on April 4, 2022.
· The arrest of a reporter, Mr. Fatai Akanji, and deputy editor, Mr. Uthman Ismail, both with the Osun defender newspaper, by a policeman attached to the Osun State Command of the Nigeria Police on May 31, 2022 for undisclosed reasons.
Mr. Adewale called on the Federal Government to put measures in place to apprehend and bring the perpetrators of these attacks and crimes against journalists to justice as well as forestall future occurrences, especially as the 2023 general elections are drawing nearer.