FG urged to prioritise journalists’ safety

Media rights and civil society groups on Friday in Lagos asked the federal and state governments as well as the security agencies in the country to give priority to the safety of journalists rather than attacking them in the course of caring out their constitutional watchdog roles.

The groups including the Media Rights Agenda (MRA), International Press Centre (IPC), and the Centre for Media and Society said it is disheartening that journalists have become one of the most endeagered species in Nigeria despite their indispensable roles to the society.

They expressed this concern at a hybrid media dialogue they jointly organised to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day in Lagos, saying attacks on journalists which have become frequent must have to stop forthwith in the country.

The event with a theme, “The Imperative of media freedom for democratic governance,” has many journalists from across print, broadcast and onilne platforms from across the country in attendance.

Some of them including Mr Benedict Uwalaka(Daily Trust, Lagos), Ms iniyekemine Doctor Bruce(AIT, Yenegoa); Ms Khadijat Yaya(Arewa Radio, Kano) and Mr Clinton Umeh( Journalists 101, Enugu), among others shared their  attacks experiences on the job.

Speaking separately at the event, the executive director of MRA, Mr Edetaen Ojo, disclosed that no fewer than 45 cases of attacks on journalists were recorded by MRA within the last one year.

He pointed out that up to 62 percent of the attacks were carried out by the law enforcement and security agencies including the police, DSS and soldiers while the political thugs and hoodlums accounted for about 16 per cent and the rest by the unidentified armed persons including kidnappers and bandits.

He added that male journalists were more affected than their female colleagues and also those in broadcast madia fell victims than their colleagues in print and online media.

Edetaen, who expressed disgust that most perpetrators even go unpunished, the situation he said encouraged more attacks on journalists, declared that journalists either with government or private owned organisations anywhere in the country deserve to be protected most especially by the government and its security agencies.

According to him, journalists roles are not only vital to the progress of democracy and good governance in any polity and Nigeria cannot be exempted.

He said it would be difficult for meaningful progress to take place in Nigeria if press is continued to be caged, urging government and security agencies as well as other statekeholders to ensure that media practitioners are protected and also respected.

In his own contribution, the executive director of IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade,  who is also a former NUJ chairman, Lagos State, gave the number of cases of attacks on journalists that were captured by IPC in the last four months to be 33 with 44 journalists (comprising 35 males and nine females) as well as six media organisations involved across the six geo-political zones.

He, however, pointed out that South West zone and Lagos State in partcular accounted for the highest number of cases and this followed by the South-South zone and the rest followed with no zone without any record during the period in review.

He said most of the perpetrators of attacks were government security agents especially the police and then the hoodlums and political thugs while broadcast journalists were attacked most and followed by online media journalists.

He said government would need to take concrete action and guarantee press freedom particularly for the sake of country’s development and good governance.

Similarly, the executive director of Centre for Media and Society, Mr. Akin Akingbulu, on his part, declared that attacks on journalists in Nigeria in the last one year happened every other month but higher in the months of February and March last year during national elections.

He noted that these attacks took different forms ranging from beating, assault, arrest, detention, home invassion, dissmissal to attempted assassination, among others.

He said journalists do not deserve such treatment as there are legal ways to fight them or their organisations if their reports are falsehood.

Delivering lecture at the event “On the possible psychosocial effects of attacks on journilalists and their management,” a consultant clinical psychologist from the University of Lagos, Akoka, Dr Uzo Isreal, said journalists, who are victims of attacks in the line of their duties would certainly be truamatized.

The don said the truama which may be in various forms and oftentimes live with sufferers for lifetime can also lead to self-withdrawal, low esteem, poor performance, fear of intimidation and so forth.

And the ripple effects of all these, she pointed out, go far beyond the victims of attacks.

“It will affect families, the diplomatic relations with other countries, the society and the country at large,” she noted.

“So, it is better to prevent attack on journalists and if attack happens, victims can go through comprehensive therapy and manage their truama and reduce the effects to the barest minimum,” she stressed.

In response to this alarming situation, the groups however emphasised the need for collaboration and synergy especially among newsmen and their media houses to address the challenge.

While also calling for legal reform, increased enlightenment on why journalists deserve protection and respect and also increased support from other civil society organisations, they said the Lagos Plan of Action as the recommendations during the conversation to guarantee press freedom in Nigeria would be out soon.

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