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FACT-CHECK: Buhari’s claim untrue: Journalists being detained, harassed in Nigeria

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari claimed in a speech that Nigerian journalists were no longer being harassed or detained under his government.

At the opening of the Congress of the Federation of African Journalists on April 29, Nigeria’s information and culture minister delivered a speech on behalf of Mr. Buhari in which the president reportedly stated that his administration “has never even contemplated the harassing, not to mention killing, of any journalist.”

“The media represents the eyes and ears of the world and attempts to silence it through harassment, arrests, detention and murder of journalists, is akin to making the world go blind and deaf,” Mr. Buhari’s speech read.

“I can report to this congress that not a single journalist is being detained or harassed in Nigeria today.

“This government is not a threat to the media, and it is not about to stifle press freedom or deny anyone his or her constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

‘Far from the truth’

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lists 19 journalists that were killed between 1992 and 2013 in Nigeria. In 10 cases the motive was confirmed as being related to their work.

Because no one has been convicted of the murder of the journalists, Nigeria is ranked 13th on the CPJ’s 2015 Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where the killers of journalists walk free.

Mr. Buhari’s claim that his administration has not killed any journalist is therefore correct, but the CPJ’s West Africa representative, Peter Nkanga, told Africa Check that Buhari’s claim that the current government has not harassed any journalist “is far from the truth.”

“Nothing has changed from the attacks on the press we have witnessed in the last 16 years, since our return to democracy in 1999,” Mr. Nkanga said.

“Attacks are still ongoing, with the greatest level of impunity you can think of.”

‘Kicked, beaten, pushed’

On the day Buhari’s speech was delivered, the Kaduna state police charged reporter Jacob Onjewu Dickson with incitement over a story that angry young people stoned and booed Governor Nasir El-Rufai on 27 April.

Mr. Dickson is being detained with his trial due to start on May 12.

The CPJ website lists several other cases where journalists have been attacked and detained by state officials since Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29 last year.

On June 1, 2015, police officers in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, attacked Muhammad Atta-Kafin-Dangi, a journalist with Radio Nigeria, for attempting to cover a protest staged by commercial motorcyclists (Okada).

“I was just trying to get actualities at Kuje junction in Gwagwalada where Okada riders are protesting,” a news report quoted Atta-Kafin-Dangi as saying after the incident.

“I was kicked, beaten, pushed, squeezed along with the suspects they arrested and jam packed in an hilux van (sic).”

On June 25, the publisher of Prime Magazine was severely beaten inside the Nigerian Customs Service offices in Badagry.

Yomi Olomofe was reportedly investigating reports that customs officials on the Nigeria-Benin border were assisting smugglers when more than 15 men attacked him and another journalist in front of senior officials, who did not intervene. Mr. Olomofe was beaten until he lost consciousness.

In November, officers of the Nigerian Prisons Service and other people reportedly beat Vanguard newspaper journalist Emmanuel Elebeke at the high court in Abuja after he took pictures of three murder accused.

And on February 20 this year, officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps attacked and arrested three journalists in Owerri, Imo state.

Road safety officials demanded the phones of Nnamdi Ofonye from Silverbird TV and Tope Kuteyi from Channels TV, accusing them of having filmed a video of them arguing with a motorist.

When they refused, armed civil defence officers were called in to arrest them, also taking Obioma Oburuoga of Africa Independent Television into custody, reportedly while punching, slapping and kicking the journalists.

Conclusion: Claim that ‘no single journalist’ is being harassed/detained under Buhari is incorrect.

This article originally appeared on Africa Check and we have their permission to republish.

[Premium Times]


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