The Coalition for Whistleblowers and Press Freedom (CWPPF), a coalition of about 20 Nigerian civil society organisations comprising of media houses, human rights and freedom of expression organisations, has raised alarm over the rising incidents of attacks on journalists in Nigeria.
Condemning the unsavory situation, CWPPF cited Section 39 of the Nigeria Constitution which protects the right to freedom of expression, saying this provision of the Constitution has been neglected and ignored more than it has been implemented. The Coalition noted that this is underscored by the re-arrest of Jones Abiri, the editor Weekly Source who was forcibly taken by DSS operatives at Ayabowei Plaza in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.
The Coalition sees the attack as another attempt to incapacitate the press from performing its constitutionally guaranteed function and demand that Jones be released with immediate effect.
It reminded the government that Nigeria is a signatory to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPR) and other United Nations resolutions aimed at preventing violence against journalists and media workers, ensuring accountability, bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensuring that victims have access to appropriate remedies.
CWPPF noted that the state of press freedom continues to worsen in Nigeria despite the country’s rating on the World Press Freedom Index moving from 122 in 2017 to 119 in 2018.
It said: “The re-arrest of Abiri and other cases of harassment and arrests of journalists counter the claim made by Shehu Garba, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, who declared that cases of harassments of Nigerian journalists has ended since the start of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration came into power 2015.”
CWPPF debunked Shehu’s claim that “this is the best moment for the media in Nigerian,” and assertion that “in the history of Nigeria from independence to now, I will classify this period as the best for media and press freedom and media in Nigeria. As we speak now the last 3 years has not witnessed the repression of media, it has not witnessed the closure of media houses, it has not witnessed arrest or detention of journalist on account of their duty …”
On the contrary, the Coalition noted, several journalists have been maliciously and illegally arrested including Samuel Ogundipe, Jones Abiri, Taiye Edeni, Kunle Sanni, Evelyn Okakwu etc.
CWPPF pointed out that the Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool that tracks and collated attacks on the press on the country, recorded over 30 cases of harassment and attacks on Nigerian journalists and two deaths during the just concluded 2019 general elections alone.