IPC faults attack on journalists, seeks reawakening of civic space
Executive Director, International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, has condemned attacks on journalists, even as he stressed the need for reawakening of the civic space.
Speaking at a public forum on state of media and citizens’ freedom in Lagos recently, he noted that the centre, in the six-month period between April and September 2019, documented 27 cases of attacks on journalists with 16 of the affected being print journalists, 10 broadcast and one online. In terms of gender, 23 were male journalists and four female. The attacks also had regional spread. Eight of the attacks took place in the Northwest; three were in North Central, five in Southwest. The Southeast and the South South had three and nine respectively.
Amnesty International, Media Rights Agenda and Social Economic Rights Accountability Project have similarly released reports that captured various acts of violations of citizens’ rights, including the media and journalists in wider scope in the past year.
According to him, the nature of the attacks included physical assault, harassment, brutalisation, armed robbery, threat to life, unlawful arrest and detention, which resulted in body injuries like bruises, fracture and public humiliation. The persons/groups allegedly responsible for the attacks were LASTMA, the Nigeria police, Department of State Security Services, armed robbers, Islamic Movements in Nigeria, soldiers, and Nigerian Customs Service.
The civic space has probably shrunk deeper than we think or may know, and may actually be fast collapsing, amidst the growing tendency to criminalise dissents, criticisms and efforts to hold elected leaders accountable.
Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who was the chairman of the panel, stated that the media would have to redefine its objectives, saying, “right now, there is need for media to assist Nigeria to unite Nigeria around common objectives. The media must begin to interrogate oppression, exploitation, manipulation, of religion and ethnicity by the ruling class. In Zamfara, Yobe, Bayelsa states, millions of Nigerians have been sentenced to eternal penury whereas members of the ruling class that come from different states and representing different religions in our country are not divided, when they get to their boardrooms, there is no disunity when they want to loot the treasury or allocating oil blocs to themselves.”
This forum represents a collective reawakening to the dangers all these portend to democratic development and consolidation by “what we now popularly refer to as the shrinking civic space,” he said, adding that we are certain that many other Nigerians are being made to suffer for exercising their right to free speech beyond notable cases like that of Agba Jalingo, who, by the way, is spending over 140 days in detention merely for asking for explanation from Governor Ayade of Cross River State on how taxpayers money is being spen,” Falana said.
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