Okwe Obi, Abuja
Amnesty International (AI), yesterday, said Nigerian journalists currently operate in a climate of fear because of constant intimidation, harassment and arbitrary arrest by government forces.
Director, AI, Osai Ojigho, disclosed this in Abuja, at the launch of ‘Endangered Voice’ magazine which chronicles the harsh environment journalists operate and the state of freedom.
The report, launched in Abuja on Monday, said at least 19 journalists and media practitioners have been attacked in Nigeria between January and September 2019, the highest since 2015.
Six journalists, including bloggers, were arrested in 2018, while four were arrested in 2017, according to the report.
The report says 16 journalists were arrested in 2016. Five were arrested in 2015.
Eight media houses, including Premium Times, have been raided or harassed since 2015, while three journalists have gone into hiding, the report said.
Reasons for the journalists’ arrest include exposing corruption, election coverage, and social media post critical of a governor or a senator.
The charges preferred against the journalists range from terrorism, sedition, and treason to unlawful assembly, defamation of character, criminal conspiracy, and unlawful assembly.
The report identified the police, the State Security Service (SSS), the military, and the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as state actors involved in the attack on journalists.
The report captured the raid on Daily Trust offices in Abuja, Maiduguri, and Lagos, January this year, by a team of soldiers, SSS officials, and the police, and the demolition of two radio stations – Fresh 105.9FM Ibadan and Breeze 99.9FM in Lafia, Nassarawa state, by agents of state governments.
The recent case of a female journalist in Akwa Ibom, Mary Ekere, who was arrested and thrown into prison for taking photos of state task force officials raiding a shop, also featured prominently in the report.