Nigeria’s government on Tuesday called for media “restraint” in reporting Boko Haram, after the military raided a newspaper that published a sensitive story on the insurgency.
Soldiers seized computers and mobile phones, and detained two journalists from the Daily Trust at its offices in the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Sunday.
Troops also raided the newspaper’s headquarters in Abuja and its office in the southwestern city of Lagos, triggering an outcry and calls for freedom of the press to be respected.
The army, which has threatened the media with legal action for reporting non-official information on the conflict, accused the newspaper of compromising national security.
A front-page article on Sunday said troops were preparing a fight-back after the jihadists overran two military bases on the shores of Lake Chad in northern Borno state.
Information minister Lai Mohammed echoed the military line and called the situation a “very serious issue”.
“The media must strike a fine balance between the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to receive and impart information and national security,” he told reporters.
The government was “not about to gag the press”, he promised, after comparisons were made to media harassment and repression during decades of military rule.
“But the media must exercise restraint and show more responsibility in reporting the insurgency,” he said.
Human Rights Watch’s Nigeria researcher Aniete Ewang on Tuesday called the military raid a “chilling development that the government should take immediate steps to address”.
“Nigeria’s government should ensure that the military takes no further actions to intimidate or harass journalists anywhere in the country,” she added.
President Muhammadu Buhari first said Boko Haram was “technically defeated” in December 2015 but that claim has been repeatedly called into question as violence persists.
There has been a surge in attacks against soldiers and military bases since July last year, leaving scores dead. But the authorities have been accused of downplaying death tolls.
Many of the attacks have been blamed on or claimed by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram backed by the Islamic State group.