The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) joins the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ) to condemn the police assault and harassment of seven journalists covering proceedings at a High Court in Port Harcourt. The incident occurred on May 13, 2022, at the trial of Farah Dagogo, a federal legislator and aspiring Rivers State governorship candidate for People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The authorities deployed heavy security at the court premises during the trial from which the media are supposed to bar. Without prior notice, a number of reporters arrived at the court complex as usual to report, only to be harassed by the security agents.
The incident has been condemned by the Rivers State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in a statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the council Stanley Job Stanley and Ike Wigodo, respectively. The statement said the police “did not only bully the seven journalists but also used the butts of their guns to hit and visit bodily injuries to one of them, in an attempt to prevent them from covering the court proceedings involving the federal lawmaker.”
“While awaiting the reaction of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police on the matter, the Union requests that those responsible for the attack and assault be made to face the full weight of the law,” the local NUJ council said
The union named the victims of the assault and intimidation as Anita Josephine Ogona of Eastwestreporters.com, Allwell Ene of Naija FM, Ayo Odungweru of Wave FM, Chiweta Nwagbara of Love FM, Soibi Oruwari of Nigeria Info, and Monica Ogwa and Chuks Nweke of Rhythm FM.
Anita Josephine Ogona, one of the victims, confirmed the incident in a chat with the MFWA.
“I was brutalized others were harassed. I am fine and doing my work with fear. I can’t fight back, because my security is not guaranteed,” she said.
Anita said the State Commissioner of Police visited and asked her to drop the matter with a promise to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Friday Eboka, has directed the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of deployment to investigate the officers who allegedly harassed and assaulted journalists who were on their legitimate duties at the state judiciary complex in Port Harcourt last week.
CP Eboka disclosed this during a meeting with crime and judiciary correspondents at the command’s headquarters on May 16, 2022 (three days after the attack).
The MFWA condemns the attack and molestation of the journalists and urges the Police in Rivers State to honour their promise of investigating the incident and sanctioning the culprits. Such wanton attacks on the media constitute an attack on press freedom and undermine citizens’ right to information which are key elements of democracy.