The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos has been very concerned about reported attacks on journalists and other media professionals covering today’s Presidential and Presidential elections.
During the February 25 voting day, IPC’s-JOURNALISTS-ELECTION-DAY-SAFETY-ALERT DESK received information indicating that not less than three journalists and media professionals had been assaulted and subjected to unlawful arrest. The details include the assault and arrest of Gbenga Oloniniran of The Punch Newspaper by a team of policemen near the residence of Governor Nyesom Wike in Rumuiprikon, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“Oloniniran, who was on election duty was taking snapshots of a scene where policemen were arresting some youths at a polling unit when the operative swooped on him.
Without listening to him, the operatives attached to the Swift Operation Squad seized his phone, assaulted him and bundled him into their van.”
“He was beaten while in the van even as they deleted several pictures he had previously taken, including those taken while he was being arrested, the report stated.”
Also documented was the attack on News Agency of Nigeria’s (NAN) vehicle conveying the crew members who were moving around the city to monitor the election by a mob at Liberty area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
The youths were said to be lamenting the hardship in the country but chose to transfer their aggression to journalists.
Also attacked was the Executive Director of International Center for Investigative Reporting, Dayo Aiyetan, who was molested in Gwagwalada, FCT Abuja while covering the election.
“There was disturbance and a guy was trying to upturn the canopy on top of INEC officials. I was recording the scene when a guy told me to stop recording. I did. In seconds, I was surrounded by hordes of people, miscreants, thugs, etc.
I was beaten, my clothes torn and my phone, car key, purse and a pouch containing my debit cards and other items. They took everything on me. But I fought to keep my camera.
“A guy brought out a knife and tried to stab me. I kicked him with my steel-toed sketchers and fortunately, apart from a few scratches, I escaped unhurt,” the report stated. Mr. Aiyetan has since reported the assault to the Divisional Police Officer of Gwagwalada area.
IPC Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said: “The various attacks on journalists during the general elections are condemnable and unwarranted”
He said further: “the rights of journalists to monitor and report election day activities are constitutionally guaranteed and recognized by various regulatory frameworks such as, the Electoral Act, the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage and therefore should be respected.” Mr. Arogundade charged the Police authorities to immediately investigate the attacks and ensure that the perpetrators face the full weight of the law
He also called on the Inspector General of Police to enlighten police officers and men on election duty to protect and not attack journalists.
This statement was originally published on the Twitter handle of our national partner in Nigeria, International Press Centre (@IPCng).