MRA’s Executive Director Advocates for Media Collaboration Amidst Crisis

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, MRA’s Executive Director

The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, has called on media stakeholders to share information more and support each other in times of crisis, in the light of available data on attacks against journalists and media workers in Nigeria which indicate a significant level of risk across various categories.

Mr. Ojo made this and other recommendations while giving his welcome remarks at a one-day convening to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which was held on May 3, 2024, at the International Press Centre (IPC) Conference Hall in Ogba-Lagos.

The convening was organized by MRA and Global Rights: Advocates for Sustainable Justice, in collaboration with IPC and the Centre for Media and Society (CEMESO). The event had in attendance media stakeholders which included reporters, publishers, academics, human rights activists, lawyers, and other professionals.

Speaking during his welcome remarks, Mr. Ojo said: “The convening was aimed at reflecting on the state of media freedom in Nigeria and figuring out ways of improving the environment for media practice in the country and combat impunity for attacks against journalists, other media professionals and media organizations.”

He highlighted MRA’s efforts of tracking attacks on journalists, media freedom, and freedom of expression, noting that the organization has offered various forms of assistance from time to time, including most notably providing legal and litigation assistance to victims of such attacks.

Mr. Ojo added that: “Our experience has been mixed in this regard. We have recorded some successes but also have been unable to secure favourable outcomes on many occasions and we continue to grapple with the challenge of achieving better outcomes.”

He pointed out that MRA has also undertaken strategic litigation on many occasions as part of its efforts to improve the media environment in the country, again with mixed experiences of successes and disappointments.

Reviewing the state of media freedom from May 2023 to April 2024, documented by MRA, Mr. Ojo expressed disappointment over numerous reported attacks on journalists and media houses, including arbitrary arrests, detentions, kidnappings, threats, assault and battery, and even two killings. “This signals a disheartening continuation of violence and intimidation against journalists,” he said.

According to him, MRA recorded at least 45 attacks during this period, with 82 percent of victims being male journalists and 9 percent female. Another 9 percent of the attacks targeted media houses. Law enforcement and security agencies were responsible for 62 percent of these attacks, followed by hoodlums and thugs at 16 percent, and unidentified persons such as kidnappers and armed individuals at 15percent. Notably, none of the perpetrators have been arrested or prosecuted, leading to a culture of impunity.

Mr. Ojo called for increased collaboration and solidarity among media professionals and civil society organizations to defend media freedom and the safety of journalists.

“We need to redouble our efforts and collaborate more,” he urged, outlining MRA’s plans to develop better tools for tracking and responding to attacks and discussing the establishment of a national mechanism for journalist safety.

Additionally, Mr. Ojo emphasized the need to focus on frequent attacks from law enforcement and security agencies and to establish an industry-wide legal assistance program supported by a dedicated fund to ensure no attack on journalists goes unchallenged. He also advocated for specific legislation to protect journalists and the media in line with regional and international standards