Nigeria was one of the focal points for discussion when over 200 journalists across Africa gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for a conference on free speech and freedom of expression in September.
The reporters met to discuss the renewed onslaught on journalists and activists across the continent, and at the end of the conference, the reporters sent a clear message to African governments to end attacks on journalists and free speech in their respective domains.
In a communique signed at the end of the International Festival of Freedom of Expression and Press (FILEP) organised by the Norbert Zongo Press Centre (CNP-NZ), the journalists also urged some governments to release of journalists who have been detained for carrying out their legitimate duties.
They also urged the government to put in place deliberate policies aimed at protecting journalists.
“We condemn the incarceration and killing of journalists in nations like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Conakry and other African nations,” part of the communique read.
“We condemn the arrest and murder of several African journalists. Governments should guarantee the safety and welfare of journalists who are the defenders of democracy.”
They equally condemned the “tightening of policies aimed at crippling press freedom and freedom of expression”, and urged the countries to expunge laws that oppose the freedom of expression.
It urged such nations to also “do more to curb terrorism and insecurity” rather than deploy state resources to oppress reporters.
The reporters had gathered in honour of Norbert Zongo, a journalist who was killed while investigating the unresolved death of David Ouédraogo.
Ouédraogo was the driver of François Compaoré, the younger brother of the former leader of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré.
Despite death threats, the Zongo continued his investigation until he was murdered.
In Nigeria, it is perhaps not the best of times to be a journalist or civil rights activist going by the spate of attacks on freedom of the press and speech.
While attacks on Nigerian journalists are no longer a new phenomenon, they appear to have taken a turn for concern in recent months.
According to a report published by the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom, a total of 352 cases of attacks and harassments on journalists have been recorded from 1985 till date.
The year 2018 was initially recorded by the analysis to have witnessed the highest number of attacks at 58. But the group’s latest release shows that 2019 has already surpassed that record with 61 attacks so far, and still counting.
According to the research, as at May this year, the total number of physical attacks on reporters was 189; equipment searches and seizures, 9; equipment or property damage, 17; arrests, 60; denial of access, 21; threats, 44 and ‘harassments’, 12.
Of these attacks, 322 were on media houses, while the remaining 30 were meted on individuals. Also, 95 per cent of journalists affected were males while the rest were females.
About 114 of such attacks were carried out by uniformed personnel (military, police, SSS, SARS, NSCDC, prison officials, EFCC etc).
Other aggressors were union members (3), criminals, thugs etc (56), private security outfits (18), terrorists (9), unknown (33) and others (68).
The country recently got an inglorious mention when a Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, was listed among 10 “most urgent” cases of threats to press freedom around the world.
The list was released One Free Press Coalition, a coalition of about 34 media organisations “standing up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth”, globally.
Members of this coalition include Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, The Financial Times, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, The Washington Post, and Voice of America.
Jalingo, whose ordeal in the hands of the authorities has attracted local and foreign condemnation, is ninth on the list.
The publisher of CrossRiverWatch is standing trial for “treason” over a report alleging that the Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade, diverted N500million belonging to the state government.
He was arrested on August 22 and has been remanded in the Calabar prison, after a Federal High Court judge denied him bail.
Jalingo, whose appearance in cuffs during prosecution, sparked outrage, insists he is being hounded for carrying out his legitimate duties as a journalist.
Other reporters that have faced the rough end of the authorities in recent past include Luka Biniyat, the Vanguard newspaper Kaduna correspondent, who was accused of falsely claiming that five students of the state College of Education were killed by Fulani herdsmen.
There was also Midat Joseph who was reportedly detained over a WhatsApp comment.
Dipo Awojobi of entertainment tabloid, First Weekly Magazine was arrested on Friday over an alleged defamatory article about a Nigerian politician.
Also, a photojournalist with the Vanguard Newspapers, attached to the Aso Rock Villa, Abayomi Adeshida, was on Thursday morning reportedly manhandled by security details of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom in November condemned “the growing attacks on Nigerian journalists and the alarming trend of media censorship by state authorities’’.
Members of the coalition include African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, Civic Media Lab, Civil, Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), International Press Centre (IPC), HEDA Resource Centre and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
Others are Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), OrderPaper, Paradigm Initiative (P.I), Premium Times (PT), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Sahara Reporters (SR), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), The Cable and Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).
The coalition observed that ‘’public officers and influential individuals are increasingly becoming intolerant of critical reporting and fair comments by journalists.’’
It said such officers now resort to the use of instruments of state criminal justice system to suppress freedom of expression and free press.
“From January, 2019 till date, we have recorded 61 attacks on the media, including arrests, intimidation, detention and killings. We, as a coalition, totally condemn this abuse of power by state actors and security agencies,” the coalition noted.
It also flayed the judiciary for standing idle while the executive trampled on free speech and the media.
“Some sections of the Judiciary, as a consequence of its lack of independence, have become willing tools in the hands of state and federal governments by granting judicial approvals that stifle free speech,” the coalition added.
It listed some journalists, who are presently being prosecuted by the state as Jones Abiri, Jalingo and Nasir Ahmad.
Efforts to get presidential spokespersons, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, to comment on the report were unsuccessful. The two officials did not respond to text messages requesting comments.
Also, Shehu did not pick his call on Friday, 4 p.m., while Adesina’s line did not connect after numerous attempts.
A senator, Mohammed Sani Musa, had last Tuesday, introduced a bill he said ‘’will help regulate posts on social media as well as curb fake news on the internet’’.
Some analysts already see the move as a further attempt to curb free speech.
The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ comes years after a similar social media bill introduced in the eighth Senate, sparked outrage across the country.
The former bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith”, sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’Allah sought to compel critics to accompany their petitions with sworn court affidavit, or face six months imprisonment upon conviction.
The bill had scaled through second reading when President Buhari distanced himself from the bill.
The president had said then he will not assent to any anti-social media bill as he “is committed to free speech”.
Tai APC Collapses As Hundreds Return To PDP …Say They Were Blinded By Fake Promises
Over 500 former members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Tai Local Government Area have returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The returnees led by the first PDP Chairman of the area, Hon Peter Gwezia, announced their return to the PDP, last Saturday, during the GDI’s sensitisation programme for the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) at the Council Secretariat, Saakpenwa.
Speaking on behalf of the rest of the returnees while renouncing membership of the APC, Hon Peter Gwezia, said he and other APC members decided to leave the party due to failure of leadership.
While promising to work for the success of the PDP in the 2023 election, Gwezia said the APC lacked ideas, and was like a vehicle without engine, could not take them to their desired destination, hence their decision to leave the party.
In his remarks, Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hon Chukwuemeka Aaron, who received the returnees on behalf of the Chairman, PDP Rivers State, Amb Desmond Akawor, assured them of equal treatment, saying there are no new members in the party.
“I want to welcome you all and to say that in PDP and GDI where you are today, no person is new. We all have equal status, we all have equal rights. Some of the people that were with you there doing the jamboree that came back today, they are commissioners; they have gone to the National Assembly, become chairmen of councils.
“So, having seen what our leader, Chief Nyesom Wike has done in Rivers State, and in Tai, and what your chairman of council is doing in Tai, they have come back to take their rightful position. We want to thank all of you, and to say that the party chairman and the chairman of council will integrate you into the activities of GDI”.
Also speaking, GDI President-General, Chief Bright Amaewhule, said the performance of the present administration in the state was enough testimony for any Rivers son or daughter to reckon that PDP was the only party which had their interest at heart.
Amaewhule said that of the candidates lined up for the governorship seat in the state, only the PDP Governorship candidate, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, was competent and qualified to give the state good governance from day one.
He, therefore, challenged eligible voters who have not collected their PVCs to do so as soon as possible, and prepare to cast their votes for the right party which was a master of good governance and quality projects’ delivery in the state come 2023.
The returnees, alongside GDI members from the 10 wards of Tai, including youths, women and students groups, later engaged in a wild gyration, turning the entire arena into dance frenzy.
The event also featured solidarity speeches from stakeholders among them former and current National and State Assembly members, former and serving council chairmen, former commissioners, party stalwarts, and captains of industry, among others.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
MOSOP Tasks SPDC On Fresh Oil Spill
Factional President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Fegalo Nsuke, has called on Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) Joint Venture (JV), the oil and gas multinational company, to take full responsibility and appropriate action to curb a fresh oil spill in Bodo Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Nsuke, who noted that the spill was first noticed in the community early last week, blamed Shell for the spill and urged the Dutch multinational to alleviate its impact on the community, curtail its spread and commence proper remediation and compensation in accordance with global best practices.
The MOSOP leader noted that the oil spills from the Trans Niger Pipeline operated by the Shell JV, suddenly erupted within the residential area of the community, alleging that it must have been caused by equipment failure.
He observed that although the cause of the spills, which was occurring 11years after the release of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports, was yet to be ascertained, the spills have affected residential areas and community dwellers have been asked by the MOSOP to evacuate the area, to avoid causality in case of a fire.
“This massive spill is occurring 11 years after the UNEP released a damning report exposing Shell’s devastation of the Ogoni environment.
“We have communicated with community leaders to cooperate with investigations and ensure that every detail about this spill is communicated to our secretariat as soon as possible”, he said.On his part, Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said, “the cause of the crude oil spill which occurred inside the community where people live is not yet known at this time.”
By: Tonye Nria-Dappa
Nigeria’s Freedom Of Expression Attracting Global Attention, Buhari Claims
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday, said it was instructive that Nigeria was attracting positive international attention as a country that promoted media freedom and freedom of expression.
He said this was premised on the government’s understanding of the important roles that information literacy and media education played in sustainable development.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said this while pledging his “full support” for three major international events scheduled to hold in Nigeria in October and November 2022.
They include: the 2022 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Global Media, Information Literacy Week in Abuja, in October, the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry in Lagos, as well as the second Global Association of Literary Festivals Conference, Abeokuta, in November.
In the statement titled ‘President Buhari pledges support as Nigeria hosts major cultural, tourism and literary events,’ he said the global events were opportunities to showcase the nation’s rich heritage in culture, arts, tourism and entertainment as well as advancements on media freedom.
Earlier, the Minister of Information ad Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that hosting the 2022 UNESCO Global Media, Information Literacy Week, would help to address the rising spate of fake news, misinformation and hate speech.
Expressing his delight to welcome international visitors to Nigeria, Buhari urged citizens to leverage the events to exhibit the values “that make us a unique, friendly and peace-loving people.”
The statement read in part, “Welcoming the decision by the UNESCO’s World Tourism Organisation and the Global Association of Literary Festivals to grant Nigeria the right to host these separate historic events, the President assures all relevant stakeholders and participants of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Nigeria.
“On the MIL Week, Buhari notes that it is instructive that Nigeria is attracting positive international attention as a country that promotes media freedom and freedom of expression, recognising the important roles information literacy and media education play in sustainable development.
“On the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry, the President says the rapid growth of Nigeria’s film, fashion, music, and the Information and Communications Technology sector, and the increase in international appeal and acceptance would continue to spur government to devote more resources to the sector.”
Among other initiatives, Buhari noted that the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, established by his administration and managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, had provided single-digit financing to many young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and information technology.
He noted that the $100 million re-development of the National Theatre, Lagos, into a world-class creative park is also ongoing, following the handover of the facility to the CBN and the Bankers Committee.
The President, therefore, expressed confidence that the literary world would find many good things to celebrate about Nigeria when they meet in the historic city of Abeokuta, homeland and birthplace of one of Nigeria’s finest literary icons and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.
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