#End SARS: MRA, NUJ, Editors Condemn Attacks on Journalists, Media Houses…

…Ask
Government to Severely Punish Perpetrators

Media Rights Agenda
(MRA), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the
Nigerian Guild of Edtors (NGE), have slammed recent attacks against journalists
and media houses in some parts of the country, particularly in Lagos, by state
and non-state actors in the wake of the #EndSARS protests, describing the
actions as reprehensible acts of intimidation and reprisals against media
workers and organizations engaged in the lawful pursuit of their professional
functions.

In a statement issued
by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA said “the failure of the government
and its law enforcement agencies to protect media houses, journalists and other
media workers in the face of these threats, wanton acts of harassment and
intimidation, arson, physical violence and other violation of media rights is a
shameful abdication by the government of its legal and constitutional
responsibility to protect them as well as a breach of its obligations under
international human rights law.”

According to Mr. Longe,
“The media serve a critically important function in society, particularly in
times of crisis and emergencies, as it is imperative that citizens, other
members of the public and communities are adequately informed about the
prevailing situation, including any threat to their lives or wellbeing. Such
acts of intimidation and violence against the media and journalists, as we have
witnessed in recent days, undermine their ability to perform their functions
and violate the public’s right of access to information.”

Incidents
of Attacks

He cited recent
incidents of attacks against the media, including the October 20 brutalization
of two journalists with The Punch
newspaper, Mr. Femi Dawodu and Mr. Segun Odunayo, by over 20 policemen while
they were covering the #EndSARS protests in the Alausa area of Lagos. The
journalists were recording protest activities in the area when the policemen
accosted them and ordered them to stop recording. Upon identifying themselves
as journalists, the policemen furiously attacked and subsequently took them to
the Alausa Police Station where they were further brutalized and asked to
change the narrative of their recording. Before they were released, they were
warned that the Police will come after them if any negative reports about the Police
were published.

Mr. Longe recalled
another instance on the next day, on October 21, when the offices of Television Continental (TVC) in Lagos
were attacked allegedly by hoodlums taking advantage of the #EndSARS protests.
The mob invaded the offices, destroyed property and burnt vehicles parked in
the premises as well as the building housing the television station.

Another
Instance

In yet another
instance, according to him, the offices of The
Nation
newspapers, also in Lagos, were attacked and burnt down by suspected
hoodlums who were also taking advantage of the protests and were able to carry
out their nefarious activities unimpeded despite the imposition of a 24-hour
curfew all over Lagos State two days earlier by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu,
which has now been relaxed to 14 hours.

Attacking
Journalists

Mr. Longe stressed that
there can be no justification for attacking journalists and media houses as
such actions are likely to result in self-censorship as journalists and other
media workers become fearful that they are being watched and would be attacked
by any party to a conflict or any interest group that is displeased with their
reporting.

Noting that impunity
for such attacks against journalists and media houses would only embolden the
perpetrators and encourage future attacks, he called on the government to
ensure accountability for these acts of violence against the media and other
violations of their rights by promptly conducting thorough, independent and
transparent investigations into all the cases and bringing the perpetrators,
including those who ordered, supported or covered up any of these activities,
to justice.

Law
Enforcement Agencies

He also urged the government
and law enforcement agencies to live up to their responsibilities of ensuring
the safety of journalists and other media workers by taking urgent steps and
putting in place mechanisms to protect media organizations, journalists and
other media workers across the country.

Also commenting in the
same vein, the NUJ, Lagos State Council in a statement by its Chairman, Dr
Qasim Akinreti and Secretary, Mr Alfred Odifa, said, “We are indeed in a very
trying times in the state, in the media industry and the country at large. The
violent event that took place across the state and some media establishment
yesterday has left the media severely bruised and further plunged it to further
distress.

“The wanton destruction
of facilities at TVC ,The Nation
Newspapers, the attack on Channels TV,
LTV
and shutting down of  broadcasts
from LTV, Radio Lagos/Eko FM and Traffic Radio was an affront on the
Nigerian Media that have always stood in defence of free speech and democracy
in the country” it said.

Available
Reports

The NUJ noted that, “However,
from available reports from the leadership of various media organisations, chapels
and other senior officials revealed that no Journalists in the affected media
organizations cut up in the  crisis was safe.

“The destruction of
equipment, properties in the media houses and well being of our members are of
great concern now.

Recalling that the
media houses provided jobs to its teeming members, the NUJ observed regrettably
that “some of our members have lost their means of livelihood.”

While demanding for the
setting up of distress fund for Journalists in the media houses affected by the
destruction, the NUJ assured its members in the affected media organizations
that “we stand with them.”

Editors
Decry Attacks

Also condemning the
attacks, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) observed that the Nigerian media
contributed immensely to the current democracy being enjoyed in Nigeria.

In a statement by its
President, Mr Mustapha Isah and general Secretary, Ms Mary Atolagbe, the
editors noted that, “Journalists have been reporting all sides since the
#EndSARS protests erupted.  It is their
duty to inform the public of developments in the country, and that they have
been doing even at the risk of their lives.

“The media shouldn’t be
made to operate in an insecure atmosphere.

“This is why the Guild
is calling on the government to provide adequate security for media houses to
enable them perform their constitutional role of holding  leaders 
accountable to the people.

“The government should
also consider providing compensation for the affected media houses to enable
them bounce  back and keep their
employees at work,” the NGE said.

Victims
of Attacks

In a statement signed
by the Chairman, Photojournalists Association of Nigeria (PJAN), Lagos Chapter,
Mr Kola Olasupo, stated that two of their members from The Nation Newspapers, Deputy Photo Editor, Mr Isaac Jimoh Ayodele
and Mr Abiodun Williams were victims of the attack.

Mr Ayodele, also the NUJ
Lagos internal auditor, almost lost his life when he was attacked by hoodlums
at Mofoluku area of Lagos in the cause of carrying out his official duties.

He was attacked in an
attempt to get the shots of the burnt Makinde Police Station, located in the
Mafoluku area. He narrowly escaped death after much beating while Mr Williams
was attacked at Yaba area of Lagos and his camera completely damaged

Another member, Mr Mike
Otogo a photojournalist with The Economy
Magazine,
was attacked at Ojudu area of Lagos, when he went to cover Ojodu
Police Station, set ablaze by hoodlums. He was lucky to escape, but his camera
was snatched from him and smashed on the ground by hoodlums. He presently has
no camera to work with.

Noting that this attack
is one too many, PJAN “pleads with the protesters to see us as partners who
believe in their cause and allow our members to carry out their lawful duties.”

Stay
Safe

The association also urged
members, “to stay safe and be security conscious of their movement as they
carried out their normal duties, adding that its executives “sympathizes with
the unfortunate victims and pray that no harm befalls any members of the association
again.”

The International Press
Centre, IPC, Lagos-Nigeria also says, it is extremely concerned about latest
happenings in the country with respect to the #ENDSARS and #ENDSWAT protests
especially the targeting of media institutions and harassment of journalists.

“IPC particularly
condemns the Wednesday October 21, 2020, arson attack on Television Continental (TVC) as well as the molestation of the
journalists and other media professionals working in the establishment by a
mob.

Security
Personnel

“IPC equally condemns
the assault on some security personnel attached to Channels Television that led
to temporary halting of broadcasts by the station.

“IPC also decries the
attack on Toyin Yusuf, a journalist with Osun State Broadcasting Corporation
and another member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists by some angry youths
while covering the protests in the state,” the organisation said.

It further condemns the
prevention of an Arise TV crew from
carrying out their legitimate duty at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, by a group of
soldiers also today, Wednesday, October 21.

Executive Director of
IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, warned that molestation of journalists and other
media professionals either by the security agents, mobs or protesters was not
acceptable:

Legitimacy
to Report

“The media and
journalists have the legitimacy to report the current crisis across the country
with a view to bringing truthful account to the citizens and under no
circumstances should they be subjected to hardship in the course of doing that.
We therefore condemn in totality the various attacks so far recorded and demand
that they should stop,” he said.

According to Mr.Arogundade,
the security agents should instead of firing live bullets at peaceful
protesters confront those engaging in arson with a view to bringing them to
justice.

He enjoined the
security operatives to take necessary actions to ensure a safe environment for
journalists and other media professionals to carry out their duties unhindered
while enforcing the curfew imposed in Lagos and some other states.

Imperative
for Journalists

Mr.Arogundade also said
it was “imperative for journalists covering and reporting the #EndSARS protests
and the fall out to stick to the principles of good and conflict sensitive
journalism that require balance, shunning of bias, avoidance of hate speech,
discipline of verification, fact checking, use of reliable sources, giving
voice to victims and the affected, and thorough investigation of claims and
counter-claims.”

Attack
on The Nation

Narrating how the
office of The Nation Newspapers was
attacked, its Editor, Mr Adeniyi Adesina said, “Armed men on motorcycles
invaded the headquarters of The Nation on Fatai Atere Way, Matori, Lagos on
Wednesday afternoon.

“In a commando-like
manner, they kicked their way into the premises after scaring away security men
on duty, brandishing their sophisticated guns. They poured petrol on the
frontage of the building and set fire to it.

“Some of the vehicles
parked within the premises were set ablaze, others vandalised. Many boys came
thereafter and swooped on the office, looting everything they could lay their
hands on. These include desktop computers, laptops, air conditioners and other
office equipment.

“At the time of the
attack, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief Mr. Victor Ifijeh, was among
those trapped within the office while the fire raged on.

“They were evacuated
when men of Operation Mesa security outfit arrived. Their arrival ended the
free rein of the invaders. It was obviously a targeted attack on the free
press.

The Nation had been listed on Twitter
and other social media platforms by sympathisers of the ongoing destructive
activities, as a target of attack. The
Nation
has robustly reported the protests fairly, giving voice to the
agitation of youths for a better Nigeria. The management is at a loss as to why
the company should be a target of such unwarranted attack,” he said.

Before you Run (1)

“Whatever political level you have laced up to run for: presidential, governorship, senatorial, house, local government, or ward, before you run, hear now what you are coming in to run or govern.”

 

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