Nigeria: Amnesty International decries assault on freedom of expression

By Chimezie Godfrey

Amnesty International has decried what it described as the increased harassment, intimidation, physical assault and arbitrary arrest of journalists, bloggers, and activists in Nigeria by Nigerian authorities simply for doing their job.

At a press briefing on the state of freedom of expression and media freedom in Nigeria where it launched: “Engendered Voices” on Monday in Abuja, the organization revealed that at least 19 journalists were detained at various times this year.

“Increasingly, the human rights cost of receiving and sharing information for journalists, bloggers and activists comes with dangerous consequences, forcing journalists, bloggers and activists to operate in a climate of fear.

“Journalists, bloggers and activists are facing increased risks simply for publishing articles and demanding accountability from the authorities.

“This is totally unacceptable. The authorities must immediately put an end to this hostility towards human rights,” said Osai Ojigho, Country Director, Amnesty International, Nigeria.

She further revealed that in some cases, security forces intimidated and harassed journalists who had asked probing questions or expressed critical opinions of government policies.

Ojigho added that in some states authorities used security agencies to harass, intimidate and target bloggers and silence dissenting opinions.

The Chairman Board of Amnesty International, Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani said there is no way Nigeria’s democracy can survive with the kind of repression and shrinking space for press freedom in Nigeria.

He stressed that the media and journalists are tasked by the Constitution to help expose corruption, advocate for governance and that they are doing that with huge price. 

“Many of the journalists have been put to detention, some frivolous and funny charges have been (trumped up) against journalists, and invasion of media houses to silence them have been going on in the country. 

“This is not good for democracy, where democracy strives is where there is freedom of expression and  press freedom. 

“If the press is emasculated there is no way truth will be known. So, it is important that government allow the media to do their job.

“We also know that every media is (bound) to be reporting based on ethical conducts of what the NUJ have. Because every journalist and media house is to abide by the ethical conducts of the NUJ and their own internal developed code of conduct.

“So, we know that journalists are responsible and responsive, no journalist would want to do anything that is not in the interest of the country, so, I don’t understand the reason why some government officials would always want to brutalize the journalists,” he said.

He encouraged journalists to continue to do their work as an act of patriotism adding that they should not stay away from saying the truth, as the media and civil society organizations are the critical component that can make democracy and accountable governance succeed.