Nigerian Journalists Targeted by Thugs, Mobs, Security Agents During Presidential, NASS Elections Coverage

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On February 25, 2023, when Nigeria held its Presidential and National Assembly elections across its  36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, MRA collated nine incidents in which over 15 journalists suffered various forms of attacks from a variety of perpetrators which included thugs, mobs, security and law enforcement agents and government officials.

Journalists and media workers who went out on assignment to cover the elections were the victims of various forms of attacks from different perpetrators who did not want them to cover the elections and report what they saw.

In four documented incidents, journalists and media workers were victims of assault and battery while covering the elections. TheCable’s judiciary correspondent, Bolanle Olabimtan, was assaulted, injured, and her phone seized by persons suspected to be political thugs while covering the Presidential and National Assembly elections at ward 03, Owa Model Primary School, Ika North-east LGA in Delta State. Mr. Dayo Aiyetan, the Executive Director of the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), was molested by hoodlums at Agwan Fulani Town Hall in Gwagwalada, Abuja while covering the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Some angry youths, attacked journalists covering the Presidential and National Assembly elections at Liberty area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. They attacked vehicles passing through Liberty-Oke Ado road, particularly those on election duties. Four journalists and a media worker were assaulted, their phones seized, their cameras broken, and prevented from covering the elections in Bayelsa State.

In two incidents, journalists and media workers were arrested and detained for covering the elections. Mr. Haruna Mohammed Salisu, publisher of WikkiTimes, an online media outfit was arrested and remanded at the Police Criminal Investigation Department in Bauchi for alleged disturbance of public peace and attempt to blackmail the Bauchi State Governor, Mr. Bala Mohammed. Mr. Gbenga Oloniniran, a reporter with The Punch newspaper was arrested by a team of policemen near the residence of Governor Nyesom Wike in Rumuiprikon, Port Harcourt in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State for taking picture of election scenes.

In another two incidents, perpetrators tampered with the works of the journalists by deleting pictures they had shot of scenes from the elections. In one incident, a group of men stopped Ajayi Adebola, a reporter with Peoples Gazette, covering the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, at a polling unit in Lagos, and deleted content from her phone. In another incident, Security agents, suspected to be operatives of Department of State Services (DSS) intercepted and questioned Adesola Ikulajolu, a reporter with Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), about his work. They collected his smartphone and deleted the picture folders from his phone as he moved between polling units in Lagos.

In one incident, journalists from various media outlets were, on February 22, 2023, prevented from from accessing the premises of Central Bank of Nigeria in Oshogbo Osun State where Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials had come to collect election materials for the Presidential and National Assembly elections, including result sheets and ballot papers.

While two incidents of attacks against journalists were documented in Lagos State, MRA documented one incident of attacks against journalists each in Bauchi, Rivers, Delta, Oyo, Bayelsa, Osun States and Abuja. Thugs and hoodlums were perpetrators in four incidents; security and law enforcement agents were perpetrators in three incidents while government officials and a mob were perpetrators in one incident each.