A group advocating for freedom of the press has condemned the attacks on journalists in the line of duty during the Nigerian presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday the 23rd of February, 2019.
The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism has joined forces with Reboot, Daily Trust Foundation, and YIAGA Africa to gather details concerning attacks on pressmen and women through a tool known as the Press Attack Tracker, spreading the news on this tool with the theme: “No journalism, No democracy.” The online campaign has focused on the ill-treatment of Nigerian journalists in the line of duty, recording attacks on journalists by hired individuals and political thugs.
The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism has confirmed several attacks on journalists during the election, including the arrest of five pressmen, Nwanosike Onu of The Nation, Geoffrey Anyanwu of Sun, David-Chyddy Eleke of THISDAY, Vincent Ujumadu of Vanguard and Tony Okafor of Punch, by a team of fully armed police officers close to the residence of Peter Obi (Vice Presidential Candidate PDP), in Anambra where they had gone to cover him during the voting exercise.
The Media Freedom Project recognises that attack on journalists and observers covering the elections is a crime against democracy and reports from the election show that the related freedoms of the press were not recognised or respected.
In the same vein, journalists were barred from monitoring the collation of results in Ugheli North, Delta State; Amuwo/Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, as well as parts of Bauchi and Kebbi State.
Alarmingly, Reginald Dei, a government house photographer was shot at in his residence by unidentified armed men who were said to be in military uniform at Oweikorogha, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. It is believed that he is in critical condition.
In Edo North, a National Youth Service Corps member working as the Presiding Officer during the election was observed collecting a bribe in Etsako West, Uzare Northeast, Iyamho Primary School, (Adams Oshiomole’s voting centre). In trying to get this on record the observer was attacked and his working tools were smashed.
Also worrying was the detainment of a PREMIUM TIMES reporter who was briefly held and harassed at Ward 1 in Ogboko village, Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo State.
Concerning the increased number of attacks against the press in the country, the PTCIJ Deputy Program Director, Oluwatosin Alagbe, said: “It is very alarming that cases of attacks on journalists and the press seem to be worsening in Nigeria. Data from the Press Attack Tracker shows that between 2015 and 2018, there were 165 attacks on the press which is about four times the attacks between 2010 – 2015. How then does the press uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Nigerian government to the people as contained in section 22 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution? Deliberate steps/action need to be taken.
The Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool that tracks attacks against the press across the country, confirms over 50 reported cases of electoral violence on Nigerian Journalists in years past. The media continues to pay a great price, with journalists being intimidated, harassed and sometimes killed. There have been cases of political groups and individuals attacking and vandalizing media houses owing to disputes over coverage, especially in controversial situations.
Journalists are calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the attacks on pressmen and journalists are dealt with, decisively, in the run-up to the governorship elections, scheduled to hold on March 9, 2019.