World Press Freedom Day: Protect journalists, punish attackers, groups demand

Human rights and media support groups have urged the federal and state governments to enact policies, legislation and legal reforms protecting journalists from attacks and prosecuting their assailants.

They also called for the collaboration of all stakeholders toward ensuring press freedom and the safety of journalists.

The group, compromising four partners, made the call at a joint hybrid event convened on Friday in Lagos to commemorate the 2024 World Press Freedom Day.

The event was organised by Media Rights Agenda, MRA, and Global Rights: Advocates for Sustainable Justice, in collaboration with the International Press Centre and the Centre for Media and Society.

Mr Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, MRA, said media freedom and the safety of journalists in Nigeria were declining with a rising culture of impunity of offenders.

Ojo said attacks on journalists and media houses increased within the last one year, describing the numerous reported cases across the country as ‘disappointing and disturbing’.

He stated that it was the duty of government at both federal and state levels to protect journalists carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.

“These attacks, coming in various forms, have included arbitrary arrests and detention, kidnappings, threats, battery, and even two killings.

“This signals a disheartening continuation of the trend of violence and intimidation against journalists,” he said.

Ojo called for collaboration and solidarity among media professionals, among civil society organisations, between the media sector and civil society to defend media freedom and the safety of journalists.

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He listed efforts of the MRA and its partners towards tackling the menace and the need to unite against attacks and impunity.

He explained the need for a legal assistance programme supported by the dedicated fund to ensure that no attack on any journalist or media organisation goes unchallenged.

“We believe that there is a need for specific legislation to protect journalists and the media consistent with the requirements of relevant regional and international instruments. We will also be directing our efforts towards this objective in the coming months and years,” he said.

He said between May 2023 and April 2024, MRA recorded at least 45 attacks on journalists and media houses.

He added that out of 45 cases documented by MRA, law enforcement and security agencies were responsible for 62 per cent of attacks; 16 per cent by hoodlums or thugs and 15 per cent by unidentified persons.

“Typically, there is no instance where any of the perpetrators have been arrested, prosecuted or otherwise held accountable, with the result that impunity continues to thrive,” he noted.

Mr Lanre Arogundade, Director of IPC, while reeling out statistics of attacks, said findings by the centre were similar to that of the MRA.

Arogundade expressed hope that stakeholders would collaborate towards setting up a national mechanism against attacks on journalists and media houses.

“It is not every time that government is involved in the attacks, but we want government to take action. Government has constitutional obligation for protection of journalists,” he said.

Dr Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director, CEMESO, said the safety of media experts should be a front burner issue.

Akingbulu said Nigerian journalists’ potential could not be maximized for growth of democracy when they are constantly exposed to assault, threats, intimidation, arrest and other forms of attack in the line of duty.

Journalists who joined virtually from different zones in the nation, as well as those physically in attendance, shared their personal experiences of attacks, which violated their media freedom.


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