The Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the attacks on journalists which occurred while they were covering the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship elections, noting that attacks on journalists have become a worrying trend and that security personnel have become complicit with their total disregard for the safety and security of journalists.
CWFPP noted that “in several attacks during the just concluded elections which held on the 19th September 2020, journalists suffered physical attacks, detention, destruction of work tools and work products and denial of access.”
It listed the attacks on of Samson Adenekan, a reporter with Premium Times and Nathaniel Offel of GeeTV by thugs for taking pictures and recording videos of the irregularities that took place at the Ward 10 (Uzairue North East), Polling Unit 1 of Etsako West local government in Iyamho area of Uzairue.”
The coalition stated that several other journalists and observers were denied access to their designated monitoring and observation centres. The group said Samuel Ajala, Maxwell Osita, and AlamuDolapo, among others, were denied access to the collation centre at Okha Local government by security personnel with no clear reason but which represents a blatant abuse of power and a breach of the constitutional rights of the journalists from performing their statutory functions in an election setting.
The coalition pointed out that these violent actions are not only a hindrance to free and fair elections, the crux of a truly democratic state, but also a contravention of the Constitution of Nigeria which reposes the responsibility of information dissemination and education on journalists.
The statement said: “The electoral process is incomplete without the crucial role that the media plays and this is highlighted in a 2019 address by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor MahmoodYakubu displayed on the commission’s website.”
The group also pointed out that the electoral Act also emphasises the importance of the role and the protection of journalists during elections, adding, “It is, therefore, the duty, as a law enforcement agency, for the Nigerian police and other security personnel to protect journalists in the line of duty at all costs.”
CWFPP called on the appropriate authorities to investigate the violent incidents against journalists and election observers during the September 19 Edo State governorship elections and ensure the culprits are punished.
It also called on the Inspector-General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the security and safety of journalists and election observers is given priority in future elections, saying “All law enforcement agencies should be mandated to protect journalists and observers during elections to promote a free and fair election and further strengthen the country’s democracy,” the statement concluded.