The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns security officers’ attacks and arrests of journalists covering elections and protests across Nigeria and urges the authorities to investigate the incidents and punish the perpetrators.
On May 24, 2022, security officers harassed Deborah Coker of News Agency of Nigeria, Sunny Inarumen of African Independent Television, and Osamuyi Ogbomo, a cameraman with Independent Television. The journalists were covering the primaries of a faction of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Benin, Edo State.
The opposition PDP in Edo State has been split into factions with each organising its own primaries. The two factions are led by Governor Godwin Obaseki on one side and Dan Orbih, Vice Chairman, Edo South on another side. The journalists had gone to cover the delegates congress of the Dan Orbih faction at an event centre close to the airport.
Coker told the MFWA in a telephone interview that the police and vigilantes believed to be close to Governor Obaseki’s camp, harassed her and colleagues simply out of annoyance that they (the journalists) covered the primaries of Orbih’s faction.
“They felt we had slighted them or legitimised the action of the rival faction. But it was not a matter of choosing one over the other. We covered that particular primary election because it started earlier, and we were actually going to cover the other faction when we were attacked,” the journalist told the MFWA.
Coker said she and her colleagues were first scared by a series of gunshots whose origin they could not tell. After taking cover and coming out when the gunshots ceased, they were confronted by the vigilantes and security officers.
“We had boarded an Uber to take us to the other side, the stadium, to cover the other primaries when the security officers ordered us to get down. They accused us of covering an illegal election and took us to the police station. The police detained us for about five hours and made us write statements before releasing us,” Coker narrated to the MFWA.
On the same day, May 24, 2022, some suspected political party vigilantes attacked a vehicle conveying the press corps which was covering the campaign of the Osun State Governor in Gbogan, Aiyedaade Local Government Area.
The International Press Centre (IPC), MFWA’s partner organisation in Nigeria, has condemned these attacks and called for “the apprehension and trial of the alleged perpetrators so that justice can be served”
A statement issued by IPC’s Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, also condemned an incident of physical attack by the police on Yinka Adeniran, the Oyo State correspondent of The Nation newspaper on May 25, 2022. Adeniran, who is attached to the Oyo State Governor’s Office, was covering the People’s Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary at Lekan Salami Sports Complex in Ibadan. About five police officers, armed with rifles attacked the reporter, tearing his shirt. One of the officers, identified by his name tag as I.O. Niyi, sprayed teargas directly into the journalist’s face, before throwing him out of the venue.
In addition to the surge in attacks on journalists reporting on the recent internal political party elections, there has also been one near-fatal police attack on journalists. On May 31, 2022, Toba Adedeji, the Osun State Correspondent of The Nation newspaper was shot in the thigh while covering a protest in Osogbo, the state capital.
The MFWA joins the IPC to condemn these attacks against journalists, and to call on the police and political parties’ leadership to restrain their agents from further violations. We further reiterate the demand for investigations into the attacks in order to sanction the perpetrators.