The Coalition for Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom, (CWPPF), has condemned in strong terms the growing trend of state security attacks on journalists and news media houses publishing investigative reports about public officials involved in corruption.
CWPPF called on the Federal Government to take prompt measures to end these attacks on the news media, protect journalists from corrupt government officials exposed by journalists through their investigative reporting, and institute cautionary and disciplinary action against state actors who continue unruly attitudes towards journalists and citizens.
The Coalition said: “This dangerous trend threatens the health of the Nigerian news media and the resilience of our country’s democracy.”
It noted that on December 30, 2021, Tony Ufoh, a journalist with Punch Newspaper was harassed by the Nigerian Special Police Fraud Unit [SFU] in the line of duty in Milverton Ikoyi area of Lagos while interviewing prospective tenants who were reportedly defrauded by a developer. Tony was accosted by the police and his phone and Identity card forcibly taken and still remain with SFU.
It noted that this rising pattern of attacks, and its evident constitutional breach, raise worrying concerns for the protection of citizen’s rights, the ability of the state to ensure effective governance, and the statutory obligation of the news media to hold the government and state officials accountable as required by the 1999 constitution.
CWPPF noted that for the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari which came to power ostensibly to rid the country of corruption, this flagrant abuse of state power and resources by its law enforcement agents blemishes its preparedness to enable the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
The police on its part, the Coalition pointed out, is best served to restrain from abusing its powers using strong-arm tactics against the news media when its concerns should indeed be unravelling the alleged complicity of one of its officers in an act of corruption.
CWPPF said: “The graver danger is that if allowed to fester, this trend of attack on journalists for their legitimate reporting duty will embolden others, threatening journalism practice and freedom of the press in Nigeria, and – exposing a critical pillar for building and sustaining democracy in our country to jeopardy.
The Coalition for Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) is a group of 17 media and civil society organisations committed to upholding democracy and good governance by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom.