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66 Nigerian Journalists, Media Professionals Allegedly Attacked by ISWAP, Security Agencies, Politicians, Others in 2022

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The terrorist group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), security agencies, politicians and thugs have been identified as among institutions and individuals, who attacked Nigerian journalists and media professionals in 2022.

This was disclosed in the 2022 report of the International Press Institute (IPC), on the Safety of Journalists and Dimensions of Press Freedom, presented at the Stakeholders Forum on Journalists’ Safety and Protecting Freedom of Expression in the Age of Misinformation and Disinformation, held in Ibadan, Oyo state, on Friday.

The IPC, in 2017, commenced the monitoring of attacks on journalists in its Safety of Journalists Project, with the support of the Open Society Foundation (OSF). It is aimed at providing safety advisory, issuing prompt alerts and coordinating necessary activities on the attacks/assaults on journalists and media outlets.

Making the presentation, the Program Officer of IPC, Mrs. Melody Akinjiyan, revealed that the Safety of Journalists Alert Desk of the centre documented the attacks, which range from unlawful arrests/detention, physical assaults, threat to life, abduction, and invasion, threat to sanction, media shutdown, robbery, hacking of social media account, threat to disclose source, denial of access to information and murder.

The report gave the alleged perpetrators as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Nigeria Security & Civil Defence (NSCDC), Security, Intelligence Agency (NIA), Department of State Security (DSS), hoodlums and Shooting Stars FC.

Other culprits noted are unknown persons and gunmen, Nigeria Police Force, Police Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB), political thugs, armed robbers, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development and politician and LASTMA.

The attacks, she said, occurred in the six geo-political zones of the North West (NW), North Central (NC), North East (NE), South West (SW), South East (SE) and South South (SS).

Akinjiyan gave the breakdown as follows, Zamfara, Jigawa and Kaduna (NW) – (4); FCT Abuja and Kwara (NC) – (16); Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa and Bauchi (NE) – (6); Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Oyo (SW) – (26); Enugu (SE) – (4); and Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Cross River (SS) – (10).

The types of attacks outlined by her are physical attack (24), abduction (7), gun attack (1) threats to life (2), threat to disclose source /intimidation (2) and invasion (1), media shutdown (1) denial of access to information (1) robbery (1) harassment (2), unlawful arrest and detention (21), hacking of account (1) and threat to sanction/payment of fine (2).

Media types are broadcast (26), print (13), online (24) and others (3), while according to gender are male (56) and female (10).

On the methodology used at arriving at the number of victims and incidents, the IPC program officer pointed out that field reports of press freedom monitors engaged by the centre in each of the country’s six geo-political zones complemented that of the IPC’s Safety of Journalists Alert Desk.

“The collated information was then subjected to verification, especially through the affected individual journalists and news mediums, after which they were analysed to determine the location of the incident, the types of attacks, the alleged perpetrators, the gender of the victims, the type of media organisations affected, the injuries or losses suffered, and the remedies sought, if any,” she stated.

Akinjiyan however said journalists must demonstrate a greater sense of solidarity, in dealing with attacks on the media and the abuse of the rights of colleagues in the profession.

“Sharing information relating to similar experiences and circumstances of attacks by journalists and victims could be useful for interrogating and overcoming the predisposing factors that make journalists vulnerable to victimization.

“In most cases, available information provided to the help desk by victims, particularly as it pertains to identities of attackers or perpetrators of abuse may not be adequate considering the spontaneity of the incidents.

“It would therefore be helpful if colleagues who were on the same beat or at the scene of the incidents could also volunteer further credible information to assist in apprehending and prosecuting abusers of journalists and attackers of the media.

“It is however noted that abuse by security agents, especially the Police Force still features as a dominant challenge despite decades of advocacy aimed at demanding change from relevant authorities of security agencies.

“There is indeed the need for relevant authorities to prioritise sensitization and reorientation of security agents on the rights and privileges of journalists during crisis situations.

“It is therefore imperative for media professional bodies, especially the unions and associations as well as relevant stakeholders in the civil society to demand accountability on safety of journalists and media through renewed engagements at institutional and legislative levels,” she stressed.

Akinjiyan recommended that as a follow-up to existing efforts at mitigating attacks on journalists and the media, there is the need for greater networking, partnership and collaboration by stakeholders on the safety of journalists as well as using institutional and legal mechanisms to challenge the violation of the rights of journalists and the media.

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