…laments assault on freedom of expression
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A human rights organisation, Amnesty International, AI, Nigeria, Monday, disclosed that 19 journalists have been arrested and detained illegally in 2019, by security authorities in the country.
This was made known by the Director, AI, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, at the launch of a report titled, ‘Endangered Voices; Attack on Freedom of Expression in Nigeria’ in Abuja.
Ojigho lamented the increased risks journalists, bloggers and activists are experiencing for publishing articles and demanding accountability from government.
The 39 page report unveiled by the Chairman, AI, Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, alleged that the Nigerian security forces including the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army, Department of State Security, DSS, have constantly violated the rights of journalists, bloggers, and activists, which also these government securities do not obey court orders and judgments.
The report also highlighted arrest and detention of some journalists who have suffered as victims including Jones Abiri, arrested and detained for publishing about oil blocks in the Niger Delta; Kofi Bartels, arrested and tortured for filming police brutality; Mary Ekere, assaulted and detained for taking photos of brutality by state officials; Jamil Mabai, a blogger, arrested and detained for facebook post; Saifullah Mikailu, a blooger, arrested, tortured and detained; Ahmed Salkida; stigmatized and harassed for investigative journalism; Samuel Oguindipe, arrested for refusing to disclose sources; Premium Times was raided; Breeze 99.9 FM, Lafiya, was demolished; Fresh 105.9 FM, Ibadan, demolished including journalists and media activists persecuted on trumped-up charges including Daniel and Timothy Elombah, journalists accused of cybercrime; Jaa’far Jaa’far, journalist accused of defamation for exposing corruption; Obinna Don Norman, journalist accused of cyberstalking for exposing corruption; Gloria Mabeiam Ballason, on-air personality harassed; Utitofon Morgan Ukpong, blogger, arrested for a blog he did not write; Ohimai Amaize, journalist forced to flee; and others.
The launch had in attendance representatives of Ghana High Commission, Ministry of Information, CISLAC, Global Rights, media, and others.
She said: “Journalists, bloggers, and activists in Nigeria are increasingly harassed, intimidated, sometimes physically assaulted and arbitrarily arrested by Nigerian authorities simply or doing their job or expressing dissenting opinions.
“At least 19 journalists were detained at various times this year, the orgainsation revealed as it launches ‘Endangered Voices’ a briefing on the state of freedom of expression and media freedom in Nigeria.
“Increasingly, the human rights cost of receiving and sharing information for journalists, bloggers and activists come with dangerous consequences, forcing journalists, bloggers, and activists to operate in a climate of fear.
“Journalists, bloggers, and activists are facing increased risks simply for publishing articles and demanding accountability from the authorities. This is totally unacceptable. The authorities must immediately put an end to this hostility towards human rights.”
According to her Amnesty International has been examining the cases of journalists who were detained, threatened or intimidated over the past five years. The orgainsation’s investigation reveals a disturbing escalation in the authorities’ threats and target bloggers and silence dissenting opinions.
“On 23 July 2016, Abiri Jones, a publisher of Weekly Source, was arrested by members of the DSS and held incommunicado without access to family or lawyers for two years. He was released on 15 August 2018 and rearrested on 20 May 2018 before being put on trial for terrorism and cybercrimes charges.
“In October 2018, publisher Ja’afar Ja’afar at the online Daily Nigerian also received several death threats against himself and his family after publishing videos of a serving governor allegedly receiving a bribe.
“Kofi Bartels, a broadcast journalist with Nigeria Info 92.2 FM, a radio station in Port Harcourt, was assaulted on 4 June 2029 by police officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. He was then arrested, detained and tortured for attempting to film police while beating a teenager in Port Harcourt.
“Mary Ekere, a journalist with Akwa Ibom based The Post Newspaper was assaulted by officials of Akwa Ibom Environmental Protection and Waste Mangement Agency for filming them beating street traders. They also seized her phone and arrested her.
“Saifullah Mika’ilu was arrested two years ago over suspicion of posting on Facebook, a picture of Kastina State governor in female dress. Even though he denied posting the picture, SARS police officers detained him for five days. He was tortured during interrogation and forced to confess a crime he did not commit.
“In the first week of 2019, security forces raided the Abuja and Maiduguri offices of the Daily Trust newspaper, arresting two reporters and confiscating computers and mobile phones”, she stated.
She further said facilities of Breeze Fm in Lafiya, Nasarawa State and Fresh FM in Ibadan, Oyo State, were demolished by state authorities for allegedly not complying with land administration laws.
“Nigerian authorities pay lip service to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom by intimidating and harassing journalists and media organizations. This must stop and the government must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right of people to share information and end the climate of fear and repression across the country”, she added.