Nigerian Journalists Under Governors’ Bondage — RSF | Vanguard

Reporters Without Borders, RSF, has raised concern over the violence against journalists in Nigeria in the past 18 months and reminded the Federal Government of its obligations regarding media freedom, including ensuring that state governors had respect for people of the pen profession.

RSF said in a statement issued yesterday: “Since the start of 2016, RSF has registered more than 70 cases of violence against journalists and media outlets in the course of their work in Nigeria. Last week’s demolition of Breeze FM in Abuja, the federal capital, is just one example of the climate of violence and instability to which journalists are exposed.

“The station, which began broadcasting last February, was torn down in a single day, 20 May, on the grounds that it had been issued a permit to operate in a residential area by mistake. Journalists were unable to cover its demolition because the police shot in the air to disperse protesters.’’

Quoting the FM Director of Breeze, Nawani Aboki, RSF stated: “Due process was not followed; this demolition was carried out because I don’t belong to the same political party as the governor. He is afraid that the station might not support his political ambition. Part of the reasons is that the station aired a report on the ongoing labour strike in the state (Nasarawa).”

“The station broadcasted a debate on 1 May in which guests criticized the delay in paying salaries to employees of the state government in Nasarawa.

“The summary methods used to silence this radio station are unacceptable and are part of a generalized climate of violence towards the media in Nigeria.’’

Reacting further, RSF Editor-in-Chief, Virginie Dangles, said: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to follow through on his statements of support for the media by reining in the state governors and state governments responsible for this kind of violation.

“This was not Nasarawa governor Umaru Al-Makura’s first attack on the media. Several journalists have been targeted.

Punch newspapers correspondent Umar Muhammed and Rabiu Omaku of the Universal Reporters news website, were ejected from Nasarawa Government House last September and were forbidden to return because of articles critical of the governor. In November, they were banned from covering Nasarawa government activities “for life.

“Such arbitrary actions are unfortunately typical of what journalists experience in Nigeria. The wide-ranging autonomy and political weight of governors in their own state guarantee them almost complete impunity in their treatment of the local media, hence the profusion of more or less official measure designed to silence critics.

“The states that are the leading media freedom violators are the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) in the centre of the country (with 16 cases since the start of 2016), Lagos in the South West (9), Bayelsa in the south (4), and Rivers in the southeast (4). Cases of violence against journalists and violations of the freedom to inform were registered in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

“Bans on access to public information are the leading category of media freedom violation although Nigeria adopted a Freedom of Information Act with great fanfare in 2011.

“Since the start of 2016, at least 39 journalists have been arbitrarily prevented from doing their work because they were denied access to a trial, press conference, senate debate or other activity that they were nonetheless accredited to cover.

“Just weeks ago, on May 7, Abuja presidential palace correspondents were turned away when President Buhari received the 82 Chibok schoolgirls who had just been released by Boko Haram. The only media allowed to cover the event were state media such as Nigeria Television Authority and Voice of Nigeria, VON, whose bosses are appointed by the federal government.

“Regardless of the federal government’s obligations, journalists are often targeted by the police, army or State Security Service, SSS, and usually with complete impunity. Journalists often pay a high price for catching them in the act of corruption or using violence against civilians.