The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Africa and other groups have condemned attacks on journalists during the 2019 general elections.
Reports from the media and election situation rooms indicated several journalists and election observers were attacked during the polls while others were denied access to cover election proceedings.
Groups including Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, (PTCIJ) BBC World Service Group, YAIGA Africa, Connected Development (CODE) have condemned the attacks.
The community to Protect Journalist (CPJ), and The International Press Centre (IPC) also condemned the attacks.
The groups also urged the federal government to ensure a safe environment for journalists during subsequent elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), conducted the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23, while governorship and state assembly elections were held on March 9. Supplementary elections in five states were held on March 23.
The BBC in a statement emailed to PREMIUM TIMES, condemned the harassment of two of its reporters during the governorship election dscribing it as ‘completely unacceptable’.
”Dooshima Abu, was assaulted on February 27. The BBC reporter was assigned to film a procession in front of the Benue State government house when she was attacked by a policewoman and other people.
”On March 9, Ajoke Ulohotse, was assigned to monitor voting proceedings around a polling unit along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway when she was attacked by Mr Segun Adewale, popularly known as Aeroland, a prominent member of the ADP in the Alimosho local government. In both instances, the reporters were assaulted by more than one person,” the statement said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Adewale’s spokesperson, Ajala Adeboye, in a telephone interview, he debunked the claims, admitting that “he did say he was going to slap her (reporter) but later did not do so.”
Two PREMIUM TIMES journalists were harassed at the governorship and supplementary elections in Plateau and Sokoto states.
Kunle Sanni, a PREMIUM TIMES journalist was abducted by political thugs for taking pictures during the governorship elections in Plateau.
He was later released after he was forced to delete the pictures.
Taiwo-Hassan Adebayo, also a PREMIUM TIMES journalist, during the governorship supplementary election, was harassed by the police in Magajin Garri Ward, Sokoto North Local Government Area when he was trying to access one of the polling units.
The Head of West Africa Languages for BBC World Service, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, said the harassment of journalist is completely unacceptable.
“Harassment of journalists who are simply doing their jobs is completely unacceptable. Our reporters should not have to face physical threats or intimidation and we call on the authorities to take action to protect the freedom of the media,” Ms Ogunseye said.
Oluwatosin Alagbe, Deputy Program Director (PTCIJ), in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES said: ”It’s disappointing that the very institution tasked with the mandate to create a safe and secure environment for every Nigerian, including journalists is found wanting again despite the uproar from Nigerians during the last elections.”
IPC Director, Lanre Arogundade, in a statement published on its website said: “The rights of journalists to monitor and report election activities as guaranteed by various regulatory frameworks such as the Electoral Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage have not been respected as expected.”
Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa program coordinator, in New York, in a statement also published on its website said: “Nigeria must act to ensure journalists can work safely during elections, and the first step is to hold responsible those who attacked or impeded the media during the recent polls.”
YAIGA Africa also condemned the attacks.
“The attack on journalists and civil society actors during the 2019 elections is condemnable. During the March 9 elections, journalists and observers were intimidated, abducted and assaulted,” it said.
CODE’s Chief of Mission on Election Observation, Hamzat Lawal, also weighed in.
“CODE condemns the acts of intimidation, threats and assaults of some journalists and observers by thugs and party loyalists.”