The Coalition for Whistleblowers and Press Freedom (CWPPF) condemns the recurrent attacks on Nigerian journalists which has been on the rise in recent years.
Chapter 5 section 39 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution has been neglected and ignored more than it has been implemented which is underscored by the re-arrest of Jones Abiri, the editor Weekly Source who has once again been forcibly taken by DSS operatives at Ayabowei Plaza in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.
Mr Abiri was said to have been taken by the men who stormed the venue in a white Hilux and black SUV while he was discussing with his colleagues at the Secretariat of the Bayelsa Publishers office.
In 2016, the DSS had arrested Abiri, alleging that he was a militant and was detained for two years without trial until he was eventually granted bail by an Abuja court after he was charged to court following public outcry. Abiri gained freedom two years later following intense advocacy and campaign by domestic and international civil society organisations.
This attack is seen as another attempt to incapacitate the press from performing its constitutionally guaranteed function and demand that Jones Abiri be released with immediate effect.
Nigeria is a signatory to Article 19 and other United Nations resolutions to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.
However, despite the countries’ rating on the World Press Freedom Index moving from 122 in 2017 to 119 in 2018; the state of press freedom continues to worsen.
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 harassment of Nigerian journalists has ended since the start of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration came into power 2015, he said “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; this is a period that has seen or witnessed the tragedy of journalists being killed authorised by the government in other places, I think this is the best moment for the media in Nigerian”. Mallam Gabra Shehu made this shocking revelation in a 15-minute documentary titled “Journalisms’ Silent Battle” that examined the state of press freedom in Nigeria.
In this period being described by the Special Assistant, several journalists have been maliciously and illegally arrested including Samuel Ogundipe, Jones Abiri, Taiye Edeni, Kunle Sanni, Evelyn Okakwu to mention only a few.
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.
CWPPF will not relent until section 39 of the amended 1999 Nigerian constitution is implemented. Every Nigerian Journalist held in custody must not be held without a fair hearing and CWPPF calls on federal and state authorities in Nigeria to disclose where Abiri is being detained and the reasons for his arrest, and urge that they ensure that his rights are not violated yet again and that due process is respected.
Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF)
Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ)
Daily Trust Newspaper
African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)
Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ)
Order Paper NG
International Press Centre (IPC)
Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation
Civic Media Lab
Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
Stephanie O. Adams
Program Officer (Media Freedom)
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).