As the world marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against journalists today, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called on governments, at all levels, to make deliberate and sustained efforts to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work freely.
The editors also reminded the government that attacks on journalists have destructive effect on dissemination of information and helpful debate in a democratic space. They expressed concern over the way journalists are increasingly subjected to all forms of threats, including kidnapping, torture, physical attacks and other forms of harassments.
In a statement, yesterday, by NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uuwgiaren, the professional group also called on the security agencies to immediately locate a missing a journalist, Tordue Salem; investigate all forms of attacks against journalists – with the sole purpose of prosecuting the offenders.
Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, who covers the House of Representatives, has been declared missing in the past few weeks.
The United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed every November 2 as the “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The resolution urges member states to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.
This milestone resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. And also urges member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure victims have access to appropriate remedies.
While expressing worry over refusal by the appropriate authorities to properly investigate threats of violence and attacks against journalists in the past few years, the NGE said it is very troubling for an adult like Salem to just vanish into thin air for the past three weeks without a trace.
Chronicling instances of attacks against journalists in the past two years, the Guild said on October 11, last year, Gimba Kakanda, a columnist with Daily Trust newspaper, was attacked by police officers, when he tried to pick up his car near the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja.
Also on October 11, 2020, the police violently attacked Arise Television cameraman, Francis Ogbonna, and a reporter, Ferdinand Duruoha, while they were covering protests in Abuja.
“We also have on record how some unknown gunmen – on October 12, 2020, attacked Television Continental presenter, Theophilus Elamah, in the chest and forced him and the cameraman he was working with, Julius Idowu, to leave the protest area.
‘’On October 17, 2020, Oluwatoyin Yusuf, a reporter with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, was attacked by unidentified men while covering a protest in Oshogbo, the state capital.
‘’Also on October 21, 2020 in Lagos, unknown men attacked the offices of Lagos State Television and the TVC broadcaster.
“While covering the October 21 attack on TVC, Ayo Makinde, a reporter with the privately owned Channels Television broadcaster was assaulted by unidentified people,’’ the Guild said.
The NGE reminded politicians, government officials and security agents that while they like to present their success stories and their opinions, using the media to gain public respect and widen their authority; the media’s role is to question them critically, and hold them accountable to the people.
“If journalists are to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities earnestly and robustly, politicians, government officials and security agents must treat them respectfully. They must ensure regular flow of information and frank dispassionate approach in dealing with journalists,’’ the editors said.
Aside from deadly attacks, the NGE said it has also noticed “anti-media rhetoric’’ by some politicians and senior government officials – that is hostile to the media.
According to the NGE, “This anti-media rhetoric has lent a hand to a sense of resentment against journalists, and contributed hugely to questioning of trust in the media, and creating a susceptible working atmosphere for journalists and media workers.
“We have also noticed that some members of the National Assembly are using prerogatives of so-called ‘fake news’ as a doubtful justification to propose amendments to media laws – with intention to criminalise journalism practice in Nigeria, curtail freedom of expression, suffocate democratic space and muzzle journalists in particular.’’
The editors reiterated that the media is neither a political rival nor opponent of the government; but an institution recognises by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution to, at all times, hold public officials accountable to the people and promotes good governance.