OrderPaperToday – The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has accused the Federal Government of encouraging attacks against journalists and media organisations by failing to take measures for the protection of journalists.

MRA also made reference to a seeming failure on the part of government to punish perpetrators of such attacks whom it noted are frequently security agents or other government officials.

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Communications Officer of the group, Idowu Adewale, expressed this view in a statement issued Monday, noting that “the growing spate of attacks against the media is alarming and having a negative impact on freedom of expression as it is stifling the media environment, thereby, impeding the freedom and ability of journalists and media organisations to carry out their professional duties.”

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The group observed that at least seven media professionals and a media organisation had fallen victim to various forms of attacks in about one week, with one journalist shot and injured by policemen.

It added that the Federal Government’s failure to act to stem such crimes against journalists was a direct cause of the heightened attacks against the media.

Reminding the Federal Government that it has obligations under various regional and international instruments to ensure the safety of journalists and bring perpetrators of attacks against journalists to justice, he insisted that the government’s failure to do so is not only encouraging more attacks against the media but also constitutes a breach of its treaty obligations.

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“It should be a matter of embarrassment to the Federal Government that despite the extremely alarming rate of attacks and crimes against journalists, it cannot point to a single instance over the years, since the inception of this administration, where the perpetrators of such attacks have been arrested, prosecuted and punished,” the Media Rights Agenda spokesman lamented.

He noted that the perpetrators of recent attacks against the media have included law enforcement and security agencies, hoodlums, political thugs, separatist groups, and criminal elements, among others, adding that “the Government’s inaction and apparent refusal to reprimand its officials who are guilty of such conduct, is clearly being interpreted as an open season for anyone who is so inclined to attack journalists.”

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Examples of recent attacks against the media highlighted in statement include:

  • Oriyomi Hamzat, a journalist, Managing Director and founder of Agidigbo 88.7FM in Ibadan, Oyo State, was arrested on May 26, 2022, by officers of the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police in Ibadan and taken to Abuja, after he honoured an invitation by the Oyo State Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police over a complaint to the police by a suspect in a murder trial which the radio station had consistently covered.
  • Yinka Adeniran, the Nation newspaper’s reporter attached to the Oyo State Governor’s Office in Ibadan, was on May 25, 2022, beaten up and had teargas sprayed directly into his eyes, nose, and mouth by a police officer while he was covering the governorship primaries of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Ibadan.
  • An attack by gunmen on May 30, 2022, on the premises of the state-owned Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) in Awada, Onitsha, during which they brutalised and inflicted injuries on some of the staff, burnt down one of the station’s buildings as well as a company bus and another vehicle belonging to a staff of the station.
  • The shooting by an operative of the Osun State Command of the Nigeria Police on May 31, 2022 of the Osun State Correspondent of the Nation newspaper, Toba Adedeji, while he was covering a students’ protest in Osogbo over the alleged extrajudicial killing of Abiola Afolabi who was killed by policemen on April 4, 2022.
  • The arrest of a reporter, Fatai Akanji, and Deputy Editor, Uthman Ismail, both with the Osun defender newspaper, by a policeman attached to the Osun State Command of the Nigeria Police on May 31, 2022 for undisclosed reasons.

The Media Rights Agenda further called on the Federal Government to put measures in place to apprehend and bring the perpetrators of these attacks and crimes against journalists to justice, as well as forestall future occurrences, especially as the 2023 general elections are drawing nearer.

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