By Gloria Uwadirioha
The magnitude of attacks suffered by Nigerian journalists so far in 2020 was revealed Monday in a report issued by ARTICLE 19, an International human rights organization, which defends and promotes freedom of expression and information all over the world.
The report, which indicates that 60 journalists suffered various degrees of attacks from January to October, also reveals significant increase in assault, arrest and prosecution of media practitioners in Nigeria, compared to 2019, with 51 incidents in 2020 alone.
Of the 51 crimes against 60 journalists documented from January to October 2020, three journalists were killed: one by security forces during a protest in Abuja and two by unknown persons in Adamawa and Nasarawa states.
Also, 34 journalists, including two females, fell victims of assaults in Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Edo and Rivers states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It was reported that 18 of them were assaulted for covering the nationwide #ENDSARS protests against police brutality in October.
According to the report, 12 journalists were arrested but six of them were released after a few days. The other six were charged in court, mostly under the terrorism or cybercrime law.
The report also shows that three journalists were prevented from performing their duties, three media outlets have been attacked while four others were fined.
“The crackdown on Nigerian journalists, especially during the recent #End SARS protests, is suffocating press freedom. The security forces and government officials were found to be behind the vast majority of these incidents, while eight attacks were by gunmen and six by political thugs,” the report says.
According to ARTICLE 19, the authorities did not only fail to protect journalists from attacks, they were increasingly trying to silence the media. The Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa, Fatou Jagne Senghore, in condemning these violations of media freedom, said: “As we commemorate International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, I would like to urge the African Union and United Nations not to turn a blind eye to Nigeria.
The climate in Nigeria is increasingly hostile for media and journalists. I am pleading with the international community to support Nigeria to end impunity, protect journalists and strengthen the legal framework governing the media.
“The complete impunity for crimes against journalists in Nigeria is suffocating the media. Without a free media, no country can realise the rights included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nigeria must act now,” she noted.