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Protect journalists more, group urges government

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The Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to accord a measure of respect and dignity to the journalism profession.

Making this plea on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, ANEEJ executive director, the Rev David Ugolor, who described the Nigerian media as one of the most virile anywhere, said that this is the only way for the Rule of law to run properly in a democracy.

‘But much to our dismay, we find that these members of the Fourth Estate are often harangued and harassed and perceived as nosey parkers. Section 22 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended provides that, the media - press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media - shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives to promote the rights of Nigerians and make government accountable to the people’, the Rev Ugolor said in a statement to the media.

Regrettably however, records show that the media in Nigeria often holds the short end of the stick.

In March of 2017, over 54 Nigerian TV, radio and newspaper houses were shut down by the government. In September of that year when the government launched its Operation Python Dance as a response to the declaration of Independence by the IPOB, soldiers attacked the NUJ Press Centre in Umuahia.

Two months before, gunmen shot dead a journalist working for the State television station, the NTA. Prior to that, the government demolished Breeze FM station in in Nasarawa State.

In January of 2018, the police picked up an online journalist, Daniel Elombah with his brother Tim without charge. Even though Daniel was released, Tim is still in detention by the police in Anambra State.

In February, Kassim Afegbua, spokesman for former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, was declared wanted by the Nigerian police on charges of incitement after he released a statement from his principal asking President Buhari not to contest the 2019 general elections. He was subsequently invited by the State Police for questioning.

The following month of March, the State Police, the DSS arrested and detained Tony Ezimakor, the Independent newspaper Abuja Bureau chief who had written a story detailing the negotiations between the Federal government of President Buhari with Boko Haram and the payment of $2million to the terrorist group.

“What appears evident from these incidences of arrests, detentions, intimidation, outright killing of journalists is an inclination to impunity and a disregard for the rule of law closely linked to the corrupt disposition of public officials which the journalists seek to expose.

Therefore, instead of these avoidable deaths, harassment and intimidation of the media, programmes – such as data journalism, media for inclusivity and advanced story-telling techniques,” the Rev maintained.


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