Enough of the mindless attacks on the Nigerian media
The attacks on journalists, nay the Nigerian media, struck a horrific note last Thursday, November 5, 2020, with the cold-blooded murder of a young journalist by the country’s security operatives.
The deceased, Pelumi Onifade, 20, who was a reporter with a private television station, Gboah TV, was found dead after he was arrested by officers attached to the Lagos State Task Force while covering the looting of COVID-19 palliatives at a storage facility in the state.
Onifade’s unfortunate demise in the line of duty was one of the several horrendous attacks on journalists by agents of the state. We condemn the attack and demand justice for the promising journalist whose life has now been cut short.
Attacks on journalists and media establishments have become a regular occurrence in Nigeria, a country that gained notoriety about two decades earlier for suppressing the rights of players in the industry fondly referred to as Fourth Estate because of its explicit capacity for advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues.
In the same month hoodlums who went on a moronic rampage during the protest against police brutality by #EndSARS campaigners torched the headquarters of Television Continental (TVC) and The Nation Newspapers in Lagos and other media organizations in two other states in the country in another appalling and reprehensible attack on the media.
These harassments, intimidations, detentions, and general maltreatment of journalists by private individuals and government officials are clearly intended to suppress the media. To put in plain language, the media has become an endangered species in Nigeria.
Several journalists have been physically attacked, placed under surveillance, and detained by security agents for trying to hold government officials accountable to the people.
One of such was Agba Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, who was detained for several months in 2019 by the Department of State Service (DSS) for allegedly exposing fraud under the watch of Benedict Ayade, Cross River State Governor.
Even more traumatizing is the story of 72-year-old journalist, Oga Tom Uhia, the publisher of Power Steering Magazine, thrown into detention over an investigative publication against Minister of State for Power, Jeddy Agba, who felt the write up maligned his person and had the septuagenarian arrested and locked up without being charged to court.
Another victim of government’s intolerance of the media is broadcaster Rotimi Jolayemi who was detained for 45 days in June for allegedly insulting the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a song that went viral on social media.
A Bayelsa-based journalist, Jones Abiri, was also detained for two years without charges by DSS.
He was released in August 2018 only to be re-arrested seven months later by plain-clothed security agents on the order of an official in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The murderous intentions of enemies of the Nigerian media can only be imagined. The only explicable reason would be that the institution had become such an irritant because it had dared to expose corrupt officials of government who have piles of fraud to hide.
Indeed, since the country’s independence, the media has played a noble role in holding the government of the day accountable while helping to enthrone and strengthen democracy in the country. Its invaluable contribution during the dark days of military dictatorship in the mid-90s is still fresh in the memory of many Nigerians.
Only recently, the #EndSARS protests, intended to build the Nigerian Police into a stronger institution, would not have achieved some of its objectives without the media.
Therefore, any attack on a media house or its personnel such as the one witnessed on October 22 is an attack on the conscience of the nation.
We state emphatically that the recent attacks on journalists including the cold-blooded murder of the young TV reporter and invasion of the media houses were irresponsible and totally unacceptable.
Given the spate of attacks on the media, we challenge the Buhari administration to prove its innocence by fishing out the killers of Onifade and invaders of the two media houses and prosecute them accordingly.
We also call on the Nigerian state to, as a matter of urgency, address the needless assault on the media by public officers and security agents. We dare say that the lives of journalists matter, just as those of every other Nigerian.
The time to restore the sagging confidence in the ability of the Buhari administration to protect the media in the discharge of their avowed of holding government and other public’s accountable is now!