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Media Rights Agenda » Attacks Mon, 09 Nov 2020 12:18:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Police Brutalises Journalists Covering Protest in Abuja Tue, 13 Oct 2020 07:32:27 +0000 Francis Ogbonna, Cameraman, Arise Television
Francis Ogbonna, Cameraman, Arise Television

A cameraman with Arise Television,  Francis Ogbonna and a journalist with Premium Times, Ebuka Onyeji, were on October 11, 2020 assaulted while covering a news conference where Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu announced the dissolution of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police.

According to Ferdinand Duruoha, another crew member of Arise TV, Ogbonna was hit several times on the head and his camera destroyed, while he (Duruoha) took to his heels after being intimidated.

Duruoha said he fled after hearing orders of “Shoot him! shoot him!” The crew was interviewing protesters who had gathered at the Police headquarters.

“Police pounced on anyone they could, with Ogbonna, one of many injured,” Duruoha said

A video recording by Duruoha later showed Ogbonna’s injuries, which resulted in blood gushing out of his head.

Ebuka Onyeji was also assaulted by police officers while covering the same #EndSARS protest in Abuja.

Onyeji reported how police fired teargas canisters at the protesters, who were marching in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, demanding the scrapping of the notorious police unit, FSARS.

He said he witnessed how protesters were violently dispersed with teargas and water cannons. Some of the police officers then alighted from their vehicles and chased the protesters including journalists covering the protest. Some of the protesters were beaten with huge sticks and iron bars by the police officers.

Onyeji, along with some activists were chased down and beaten too. This is despite Mr Onyeji clearly identifying himself as a journalist.

“God punish you, journalists,” one of the officers said as he swung a big stick at the reporter aiming for his head.

The reporter was only able to block some of the hits with his hand as he ran away to avoid further beatings.

Meanwhile, the International Press Centre, IPC, Lagos, has condemned the unwarranted assault and attack by officers of the Nigeria police on the journalists.

IPC Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said, “We condemn the attack on the journalist while carrying out his legitimate duty of covering a protest.”

IPC, therefore, called on the IGP to intervene and ensure that the culprit is punished in accordance with the provisions of the law.

]]> 0 Journalists Covering Edo State Governorship Election Attacked by Thugs Thu, 08 Oct 2020 13:34:56 +0000 Samson Adenekan, Premium Times

Samson Adenekan, Premium Times

On September 19, 2020, two journalists, Samson Adenekan and Nathaniel Offel, who covered the Edo State governorship election at Ward 10 (Uzairue North East), Polling Unit 1 of Etsako West local government, were attacked and brutalized by political thugs in the presence of policemen who did nothing to rescue or protect them.

Samson Adenekan of Premium Times was slapped, manhandled and then briefly detained by the thugs for taking pictures and videos. He was forced to delete them.

Samson disclosed that he was capturing incident of voter inducement at the centre when he and another reporter were accosted by the thugs.

Narrating his experience, Samson said “They surrounded me and asked I should give them my phone. One big black guy landed two heavy slaps on my cheeks and up till now, I cannot feel my cheeks. They seized my phone insisting that I must delete the pictures,” adding “They said I would not leave the place alive if I did not delete the shots.” He was allowed to leave after deleting the pictures.

The second journalist, Nathaniel Offel, covering the election for GeeTV, suffered a harsher ordeal as he initially refused to delete the pictures in his phone when he was ordered to delete them. Samson reported that Nathaniel “… was beaten mercilessly. One of the thugs hit him with a big chair on the back twice. His phone was smashed; his clothes torn and he sustained a lot of injuries from the attack.”

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Nigerian Journalist Remanded in Police Custody in spite of Court Bail Thu, 08 Oct 2020 13:25:01 +0000 unnamedMr. Ime Sunday Silas, an editor with the privately-owned Global Concord newspaper and publisher of the news website The Profile, has continued to be remanded in prison custody in Uyo, the capital of Akwa-Ibom state more than one month after being granted bail by a Magistrate Court.

Ime was arrested on August 17, 2020 by the Police officers when he got to the Ikot Akpan Abia district of Uyo to meet a source. He was taken to a nearby police headquarters where he was detained.

The following day, he was arraigned at a magistrate court charged under Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 and remanded in detention after the Court denied him bail.

His lawyers again applied for bail on August 24 which was eventually granted on September 10; but in spite being granted bail, the editor remains in custody in the police headquarters.

The journalist is accused of committing cyberstalking thereby allegedly violating Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act for sending a message that included the title of an August 9 report published by The Profile about Martha Udom Emmanuel, the wife of Akwa-Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel.

The report, titled “Exposed: Okobo PDP Chapter Chair links Gov.Udom’s Wife with a plot to blackmail Deputy Speaker,” alleges a blackmail scheme related to upcoming local council elections in the state.

The charge sheet accused Ime of sending a “message” containing the report’s title, which it says constitutes a crime of spreading information ”through a computer, knowing the same to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, insult, hatred and ill will” against Martha Udom Emmanuel.

If convicted of the alleged offence, Ime faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to N7million (about US$18,153), or both. By the provisions of the Cybercrime Act, the High Court is the court of the first instance for offences under it.

He was eventually released on September 19, 2020.

]]> 0 MRA Condemns Continued Detention of Journalist, Calls for His Immediate Release Mon, 21 Sep 2020 10:19:07 +0000 Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State Governor

Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State Governor

LAGOS, Monday, September 21, 2020:  Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned the continued detention of Mr. Ime Sunday Silas, an editor with the privately-owned Global Concord newspaper and publisher of the news website, The Profile, and accused the Government of incrementally damaging Nigeria’s human rights record just to satisfy political egos. It called for the immediate release of the journalist from custody.

Mr. Silas was arrested on August 17, 2020 in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State, for publishing a report titled “Exposed: Okobo PDP Chapter Chair links Gov Udom’s Wife with the Plot to Blackmail Deputy Speaker”. He was accused of cyberstalking allegedly in violation of Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act of 2015.

On August 18, Mr. Silas was charged before a magistrate court and denied bail. His lawyers filed another bail application on August 24, which was granted on September 10. Despite having been  granted bail, Mr. Silas has remained in police custody since his arrest.

Condemning the arrest and prolonged detention of the journalist, MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. John Gbadamosi, said “Mr. Silas’ detention after the court has granted him bail demonstrates the lengths to which authorities are willing to go to silence journalists who are unwilling to dance to their tune. We strongly condemn such arrogant violation of the Constitution and careless disregard for the rights of a citizen.”

According to him, the arrest and detention of Mr. Silas are in breach of Nigeria’s international treaty obligations, particularly Article 66(2)(c) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, in which Nigeria, as a Member State of the Economic Community of West African States, agrees to co-operate with other Member States in the area of information and undertakes to “ensure respect for the rights of journalists.”  Such arrest, detention and prosecution of journalists has been adjudged by the African Court of Human and People’s Rights to be a violation of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty in its binding judgment in the case of Lohe Issa Konate v Burkina Faso, delivered on December 5, 2014.

Mr. Gbadamosi contended that “the arraignment of Mr. Silas for cyberstalking is offensive because the Magistrate Court before which he was charged clearly has no jurisdiction to try the journalist for the offence of cyberstalking under the Cybercrime Act as it is the Federal High Court that is given such jurisdiction by the Law.  Both the resort to the Cybercrimes Act and the use of the Magistrate Court, therefore, were simply part of an effort to legitimize the arrest and detention of the journalist to punish him at all cost in abuse of the judicial process when there is no viable case against him.”

Besides, he said, by charging Mr. Silas with cyberstalking under Section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act, Nigeria is portraying itself as a lawless country and thereby undermining its international image having regard to the fact that the ECOWAS Court of Justice has only recently, in its judgment in the case between the Incorporated Trustees of Law and Rights Awareness Initiatives and Nigeria, delivered five weeks earlier, on July 10, 2020, ordered Nigeria to repeal or amend the section in accordance with its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The ECOWAS Court held in the judgment that by adopting Secion 24 of the Cybercrimes Act, Nigeria was in violation of Article 9(2) of the ACHPR and Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, saying that provisions such as those contained in Section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act “are not necessary in a democratic society and disproportionately violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Articles 9(2) of the ACHPR and 19 of the ICCPR.”

MRA is therefore calling on Akwa Ibom State government as well as Nigerian Police Force to immediately release Mr. Silas from detention and stop the unlawful arrest and harassment of journalists using Section 24 of Cybercrime Act as a tool to violate the rights.

The organization also called on the Federal Government to intervene in the matter to ensure the release of Mr. Silas, arguing that the Federal Government is legally liable under international Law for the actions of both the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Police. It also urged the Government to urgently take steps to formally repeal Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, particularly in the light of the fact that the entire Cybercrime Act has largely been used against journalists and critics of the government rather then cyber criminals.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda

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MRA Condemns Femi Fani-Kayode’s Attack on Journalist, Calls on those in Authority to Respect Journalists’ Rights Wed, 26 Aug 2020 15:28:51 +0000 Femi Fani-Kayode
Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, Former Aviation Minister

LAGOS, Wednesday, August 26, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned Mr. Femi Fani Kayode’s outburst against Mr. Charles Eyo, Daily Trust newspaper’s Cross River State Correspondent in Calabar, yesterday, August 25, 2020 for asking a simple question to enable him get a fuller picture of his trips round the country, saying such action is unbefitting of a public figure like him.

Mr. Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, undertook “official visits” to some states to assess the performance of governors, although he no longer holds any public office. He was rounding off his visit to Cross River State with a press conference at which Mr. Eyo asked him who was bankrolling his trips around Nigeria. Rather than responding to the question, Mr. Fani-Kayode chose to verbally attack the journalist, raising voice for several minutes and hauling insults at the journalist whom he called “stupid” and “small minded”.  He then threatened to inflict bodily harm on the journalist.

In a statement issued by Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA’s Director of Programmes, the organization condemned Mr. Fani-Kayode’s action, saying he should not have called a press conference if he was not willing to subject himself and his actions to scrutiny and had no business assessing the performance of anybody when he so strongly resents being asked to account for his actions.

Mr. Longe said: “Mr. Eyo was absolutely within his rights to ask of Mr. Fani-Kayode the question that he did. Any public figure of Mr. Fani-Kayode’s standing or any individual for that matter who voluntarily inserts himself into the public arena must expect to be subjected to public scrutiny. We applaud the journalist’s professionalism in understanding that he was not there to lap up without question any suspicious claim that the former minister and politician was making. If Mr. Fani-Kayode expected otherwise, then we have no choice but to regard yesterday as a great day for journalism in Nigeria because he was made to realize that he was sorely mistaken!”

According to him, “Mr. Eyo’s question was an opportunity for the former minister to detail the purpose and value of his trip as well as his findings and demonstrate that he is capable of personally funding his trip and not depend on anyone to bankroll it, if that was truly the case. Instead of seizing on the opportunity the question offered, as is characteristic of him, he lost his temper and resorted to insults. Allowing his emotions to take control of him was a descent into the gutter for the former minister.”

He said it was ironic that Mr. Fani-Kayode who is so quick to criticize and even insult others, including persons old enough to be his parents and those holding high offices, he has no tolerance himself for a simple thing like being asked by a journalist to explain who was funding his undertaking.

Mr. Longe noted although Mr. Fani-Kayode has apologized and retracted his insults in his statement where he said “I hereby withdraw the word ‘stupid’ which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar,” it was nonetheless necessary to remind him and others like him that “whenever former or serving public office holders decide to injected themselves into the public space, they are under an obligation at any time to render account of what they have done or are doing and therefore must be ready to respond to unlikely questions like that from Mr. Eyo. A journalist who cannot ask probing question beyond what is already said is not worth his salt.”

Reminding Mr. Fani-Kayode and all former and serving political office holders that they should be ready to be held to a high standard of accountability at all times, he called on the politician to make an effort to learn civility so that he can be civil in future in his dealings with journalists and the media who serve as bridge between public figures and members of the public.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer

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Female Radio Presenter Abducted by Gunmen Fri, 08 May 2020 07:56:28 +0000 Ms Chinenye Iwuoha
Ms Chinenye Iwuoha

A female radio presenter with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria’s, Pacesetter FM, Umuahia, Ms Chinenye Iwuoha, was on May 4, 2020 abducted by gunmen near the Amakanma Estate in Umuahia, Umuahia South Government Area at about 7pm local time. They also robbed them of their valuables including laptops.

The gunmen, riding a motorcycle and some in a Toyota Sienna van, reportedly trailed unnoticed, the Toyota Hilux van conveying the presenter, in company of the station’s General Manager, Mr. Uche Ndukwu and other workers after they left the premises of the station.

The General Manager, the driver, Kingsley Onyeokuche; and another member of staff, Nnamdi Egwuagu were in the Hilux van with Ms Iwuoha when the gunmen struck.

It is suspected that the gunmen abducted her, believing she is the station General Manager as she sat in the back, while Ndukwu sat in front with the driver as they were reported to have barked: “Who is the GM? They shot the driver in the stomach and he was later rushed to the hospital for treatment.

The abductors later made contact with the station and demanded N20m as ransom.

Chinyere was was released in the night of May 6 by her abductors who dropped her off at Abayi (Owahia) a village in Obingwa Local Government Area of the State. She placed a call to her brother who came to pick her up the following day.

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MRA Calls on Federal Government to Ensure Safety, Release of Kidnapped Radio Presenter Wed, 06 May 2020 20:37:47 +0000 Chinenye Iwuoha,  Pacesetter FM Radio Presenter
Chinenye Iwuoha, Pacesetter FM Radio Presenter

Lagos, Wednesday, May 6, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned Monday’s abduction of Ms Chinenye Iwuoha, a presenter with the Pacesetter FM station of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Umuahia, Abia State, by gunmen and called on the Federal Government and its law enforcement agencies to take urgent action to ensure the safety of the journalist and secure her release.

Ms. Iwuoha was reportedly kidnapped by gunmen at about 7pm on May 4 on her way home from work. She was reported to have been traveling in a vehicle with the station’s general manager and the other employees when they were attacked by the gunmen who then abducted Ms Iwuoha. The gunmen are reported to have later made a ransom demand to the station for the payment of N20 million for the release of the presenter.

In a statement in Lagos, Mr Ayode Longe, MRA’s Director of Programmes, reminded the Federal Government that although it had a duty to ensure the security of all citizens, where media practitioners are concerned, it has a heightened responsibility to protect them as they are performing an essential function in the interest of the society as mandated by the Constitution.

Besides, Mr. Longe said, the Government also has an obligation under international instruments which it has voluntarily acceded to, to provide a safe and conducive environment for journalists and other media workers to carry out their work as well as to ensure their safety.

He noted that there has been a recent upsurge in attacks against journalists and other media workers in Nigeria by public office holders, law enforcement and security agents as well as non-state actors, saying that any failure on the part of the Government to act decisively in the case of Ms Iwuoha would likely embolden other groups and individuals who would thereby be tempted to think that they can get away with such attacks.

Mr. Longe asked the Government to ensure that perpetrators of the attack on Ms Iwouha are apprehended and brought to justice in order to send a strong message to criminal elements in the society as well as other actors who seek to harm journalists as a means of silencing them that there will be no impunity for such acts.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos

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MRA, IPC Petition Code of Conduct Bureau over Violation of Journalists Rights, Seek Removal of Ebonyi State Governor from Office for Abuse of Office Sun, 26 Apr 2020 12:32:16 +0000 Governor David Umahi
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and its partner organization, the International Press Centre (IPC), have petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) asking it to sanction Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi for allegedly misconducting himself, breaching his oath of office and the Code of Conduct for Public Officers following  attacks he launched against journalists in the State

In a complaint addressed to the Chairman of the Bureau pursuant to Paragraph 3(e) of Part One to the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the organizations contended that Mr. Umahi is unfit to continue to hold the office of Governor and requested the Bureau to investigate the matter and invoke the provisions of Paragraph 18(2)(a) and (b) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the Constitution to secure his removal from office and disqualification from holding any public office in Nigeria for the next 10 years.

Signed by MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo; and the Director of the IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, the petition recounted the April 18 arrest of Mr. Chijioke Agwu, a reporter with the “Daily Sun” newspaper, on the instructions of the Governor. They also recalled the April 22 state-wide radio and television broadcast by the Governor in which he banned for life Mr. Agwu and Mr. Peter Okutu, a correspondent of the “Vanguard” newspaper, from entering the State Government House or any other Government facility in the State and from covering any government or official functions in the State.

The organizations attached an audio recording of the Governor’s broadcast to the petition, saying it contained inciting statements against the two journalists whom he banned, thereby putting their lives at risk, as well as threats to other journalists in the State whom he said would face dire consequences should they publish any negative story about his Government.

They noted that the actions and conduct of the Governor constitute an abuse of office in that he improperly and illegally used his position and power as Governor in an abusive way to oppress and violate the rights of citizens of Nigeria and put their lives at risk.

The organizations argued that the Governor has no authority under the Constitution or any other Law, whether as Governor or in any other capacity, to take the actions he took, particularly to impose a life ban on journalists or on any other citizen, who have not been charged with or convicted of any offence known to Law.

They accused the Governor of violating his Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance, contravening several provisions of the 1999 Constitution, putting Nigeria in a situation of having breached its international treaty obligations, particularly Article 66(2)(c) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, whereas a Member State of the Economic Community of West African States, Nigeria agreed to co-operate with other Member States in the area of information and undertook to “ensure respect for the rights of journalists.”  They cited the provisions of the Constitution which the Governor violated to include Sections 13, 22, 35(1), 35(3) and 39(1).

The organizations contended that by his illegal and unconstitutional actions, the Governor has brought Nigeria to ridicule before the international community and is responsible for Nigeria’s violation of several international instruments. Among these are the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as various resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly on the safety of journalists and actions that should be taken on impunity for crimes against journalists.

According to them, by conducting himself in the manner he did, the Governor acted arbitrarily and in a manner prejudicial to the rights of other persons, particularly media practitioners engaged in the lawful pursuit of their professional duties as journalists. They contend that he thereby violated the provisions of Paragraph 9 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the 1999 Constitution, which states that “A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.” 

Mr. Arogundade said: “We consider the actions of Governor Umahi a grave threat to and assault on our fundamental rights and freedoms as citizens, particularly in the light of his relentless attacks on journalists whose roles are more important now than ever before in the context of a global pandemic that poses an existential threat to humanity. We are motivated to take this step by our conviction that if we in Nigeria are to overcome the current and future challenges, the ability of journalists to be able to continue their professional and constitutionally mandated role of gathering, processing and disseminating information to the public should not be hindered”

His views were echoed by Mr. Ojo, who noted that the Governor had deliberately and unlawfully created a toxic environment for journalists and other media practitioners in Ebonyi State by continually making it impossible for them to carry out their professional duties, recklessly inciting citizens against them and putting their lives and welfare at risk.

Mr. Ojo said: “It is clear to us from the actions and utterances of Governor Umahi that he is lawless and has no regard for the Constitution, his Oath of Office, or common decency. He believes that he is a law unto himself and we have no doubt that such a person is not fit to continue to hold such high office in Nigeria. We therefore intend to use all legal and constitutional means available to us to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion.”


For further information, please contact:

Stella Nwofia
Programme Manager, International Press Centre
Tel: +234 802 035 9629

Ayode Longe
Director of Programmes, Media Rights Agenda
Tel: +234 802 329 8628

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MRA Accuses Police Authorities of Encouraging Crimes Against Journalists by Condoning Attacks on Them Mon, 06 Apr 2020 09:35:26 +0000 Mr. Mohammed Adamu, Inspector General of Police
Mr. Mohammed Adamu,
Inspector General of Police

LAGOS, Monday, April 6, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today accused Police authorities in Adamawa State of condoning and encouraging crimes against journalists following the failure of the State Police Command to arrest and prosecute men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) who invaded the State secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Jimeta on April 2, 2020 where they brutalized a dozen journalists, illegally arrested and detained them at the SARS detention facility.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA gave Police authorities 14 days to arrest and initiate criminal proceedings against the SARS agents involved in the incident, failing which, the organization said it would issue a formal report to the United Nations Secretary General and request him to bring the matter to the attention of the UN General Assembly so that appropriate action can be taken against Nigeria for crimes against journalists in violation of several UN instruments.

According to MRA’s programme director, Mr Ayode Longe, at about 6.28pm on April 2, the Officer in Charge of SARS in Adamawa State reportedly went to the state secretariat of the NUJ where he met reporters in the process of filing news reports to their different media organizations, using the internet services at the press centre due to the closure of business centres around the city.

Shortly after arriving at the press centre, the SARS officer started making phone calls and a few minutes later, six Toyota Hilux vans filled with heavily armed police operatives invaded the press centre and started beating and forcing journalists into the vehicles. In all, 12 journalists, including the state chairman of the NUJ, Mr. Ishaku Dedan, and 11 other journalists were taken to SARS’ detention facility where they were detained.

The journalists were, however, released after two hours in custody on the orders of the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Audu Adamu Madaki, who also directed the police officers involved in the arrest to apologize to the NUJ within three days.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the failure of the Police authorities to sanction its officers for their egregious action, Mr. Longe said: “By failing to take any punitive or disciplinary action against the police officers involved in the outrage, the Police authorities have ensured impunity for crimes against journalists in breach of Nigeria’s international commitments and obligations, a situation which is bound to encourage similar action in future as it sends a message to policemen everywhere that there will never be consequences for them for such unacceptable behaviour.”

He noted that there was no justification whatsoever for the Police officers to have gone to the NUJ secretariat because when President Muhammadu Buhari announced the lockdown in response to the Coronavirus on March 30, 2020, he was clear that it would only apply to Abuja as well as Lagos and Ogun States and specifically exempted journalists and media workers from the lockdown.

In addition, Mr. Longe said, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, went further to clarify that journalists and media workers only needed to show their identity cards and should be allowed to go about their professional duties freely to access places of work and assignment venues during the Covid-19 lockdown.

He remarked that “It is ironic while SARS operatives were brutalizing and arresting journalists who were apparently engaged in their professional pursuits at the NUJ secretariat, a place of business for media professionals, on a false allegation that they were socializing, a birthday party for one of the police officers was actually going on at about the same time at the police officers mess located on Galadima Aminu Way in the same town with over 100 people in attendance.”

Mr. Longe contended that given the facts and circumstances, it was apparent that the police officer who led the invasion of the NUJ secretariat, was nursing a grudge against journalists and merely used the lockdown as an excuse to launch an unwarranted assault on the NUJ Secretariat and the journalists he met there.

Observing that such attacks on journalists had become too rampant, he re-echoed last month’s joint statement by Mr David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression; Mr Harlem Désir, Representative on Freedom of the Media for the organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and Mr Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; to the effect that “the right of access to information means that governments must be making exceptional efforts to protect the work of journalists, as journalism serves a crucial function at a moment of public health emergency, particularly when it aims to inform the public of critical information and monitors government actions.”

Mr Longe called on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to restore discipline within the Force, saying the constant resort by policemen to brutalizing journalists and other innocent citizens with impunity was no longer acceptable.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda

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MRA Condemns Attacks on Journalists Covering COVID-19, Calls on Federal Government to Ensure Respect for Media Freedom Mon, 30 Mar 2020 13:18:43 +0000 Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA's Programme Director
Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA’s Programme Director

LAGOS, Monday, March 30, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned the increasing cases of attacks by law enforcement and security agencies on journalists covering the Coronavirus pandemic and other issues and called on the Federal Government to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of journalists and the media.

In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “We are constrained to remind the Federal Government that it has obligations under various international instruments which it has voluntarily acceded to, particularly Article 66(c) of the Revised Ecowas Treaty, to ensure respect for the rights of journalists. We are gravely concerned by the rampant cases of attacks by law enforcement and security agents on journalists carrying out their professional duties as well as the obstruction of such duties. This situation is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.”

He cited as one of the latest of such incidents, the attack on March 28, 2020 by an operative of the Department of State Security (DSS) on the Imo State correspondent of Leadership newspaper, Ms Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, while she was taking pictures of a hotel in Owerri where guests were forcibly quarantined by security agents allegedly because the hotel failed to comply with government’s directives on checking the spread of COVID-19.

The DSS operative is reported to have manhandled Ms Nkwo-Akpolu, forcibly seized a pair of prescription eye-glasses belonging to her as well as her ipad and deleted several pictures she had taken. The security agent stopped short of beating her up and smashing her ipad on the ground owing to the intervention of other journalists present at the scene.

In yet another incident, at about 4.00am on March 30, 2020, a group of soldiers manning a checkpoint at Mbiama, a border town between Rivers and Bayelsa States, attacked a circulation vehicle belonging to The Punch newspaper, which was on its way to distribute copies of the newspaper in states in the South-South zone, and damaged the car.

According to the driver of the vehicle, Mr Sunkanmi Olusola, when he got to Mbiama, the soldiers stopped him and the driver of the circulation vehicle of The Nation newspaper and refused to allow them to continue their journey. His appeal to the soldiers to allow them leave apparently angered one of them who brought out a knife and slashed one of the vehicle’s front tyres into shreds. Mr. Olusola said the soldier had initially tried unsuccessfully to smash the windscreen of the Passat Golf 3 car before deciding to use the knife to tear the tyre.

Condemning these incidents, Mr. Longe described as tragic the frequent resort to violence and brutality by law enforcement and security agents in their dealings with members of the public, including journalists, without any civility or respect for the basic constitutional rights of citizens.

He said: “these incidents are doubly tragic because a free press and respect for the rule of law are necessary conditions in a democracy.  Unfortunately, these security agents have consistently demonstrated that they are either not aware of these fundamentals of democratic rule or that they have no regard for them. This cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.”

Mr. Longe noted that at a time such as this when the world is confronting an unprecedented public health challenge in the Coronavirus pandemic, the role of the media is more important than ever before, given the imperative of citizens having access to accurate information about the nature of the threat it poses and the means to combat it, among other issues.

He argued that “In a situation such as this, there can be no justification for these types of actions by the Government or its law enforcement and security agencies. The Government has a heightened responsibility to ensure that journalists and the media are able to perform their duties.  This should necessitate taking extraordinary measures to protect journalists and their work and fully implementing all laws aimed at ensuring that journalists and citizens have uninhibited access to information. Unfortunately, we are constantly faced with a situation where the Government, which should be the protector, is the principal impediment.”

Mr. Longe called on Yusuf Magaji Bichi, the Director General of the DSS, and Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, to call their officers and men to order and provide them with the necessary training about their human rights obligations to citizens and internationally recognized acceptable modes of engagement by law enforcement agents with citizens and civilian populations.

 For further information, please contact:

 Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda

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