Media Rights Agenda asks Nigeria govt to fight crimes against journalists

Edetaen Ojo, MRA’s executive director, said the non-prosecution of persons who attack journalists is the reason there are increasing cases of criminal actions against the media.

Ojo, in a statement to mark the 2020 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, highlighted the importance of ensuring a safe environment for media personnel.

“Any failure on the part of government to take decisive action to end impunity for crimes against journalists and put mechanisms in place to respond to, punish perpetrators and prevent future attacks, will create a vicious circle where journalists do not get justice for the crimes committed against them, while the perpetrators are emboldened and will continue such attacks unchecked,” he said.

Ojo said the mechanisms should include the establishment of a “multi-stakeholder independent commission; the creation of special investigative units; or the appointment of a special prosecutor as well as the adoption of specific protocols and methods for investigating cases and prosecuting the perpetrators of such attacks”.

“The mandate of such a body or official would conceivably include conducting speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all cases of alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, such as physical attacks, assaults, cases of torture, unlawful arrests and detention, threats to life or of physical harm, seizure or destruction of professional equipment,” he said.

The MRA executive director urged the government to ensure that the independent commission would also work towards “bringing the perpetrators to justice, including those who ordered the attacks, conspired to carry them out, aided and abetted or covered up such crimes”.

He  added that the mechanism would also ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate compensation.

Ojo also called on the government to investigate unresolved cases of murdered journalists.

“Since the 1986 assassination of the former Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa, numerous journalists have been killed in the country and that in none of these cases have the perpetrators been identified, tried in court, convicted and punished for their crimes,” he said.

“Over the last one month, we have witnessed attacks on journalists and media organisations in such numbers, with such intensity and brazenness never before seen in our recent history.

“While the government’s track record of respect for and protection of media freedom has never been remarkable, events in the past few weeks indicate an escalation in the attacks against the media that is extremely concerning.”

He noted that media workers play an important role for the society by advancing democratic culture and practice, adding that Nigerians would be “ill-informed and susceptible to fake news, misinformation and disinformation” if the attacks are allowed to continue. 



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