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NigeriaDecides2023: Attacks On Journalists Make Election Coverage Dangerous 

Journalists have been attacked by security personnel and political thugs while carrying out their duties at the ongoing presidential and national assembly elections in Nigeria. 

Journalists have been attacked and prevented from carrying out their lawful duties smoothly in the ongoing presidential and national assembly elections across Nigeria, throwing into jeopardy their role as watchdogs monitoring voting processes and documenting malpractices. 

Gbenga Oloniniran, a reporter with The Punch newspapers told HumAngle that he was attacked by police officers, on Saturday, Feb. 25, for taking pictures of the scene where the security operatives were arresting some youths at a polling unit near the residence of Governor Nyesom Wike in Rumuiprikon, Obio/Akpor LGA of Rivers State. 

He was assaulted and beaten by the police officers who forced him to delete several pictures he had previously taken. 

Dayo Aiyetan of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) said he was attacked in the Gwagwalada area of Abuja while covering the election. 

“There was a disturbance and a guy was trying to upturn the canopy on top of INEC officials,” he posted on Twitter. “I was recording the scene when a guy told me to stop recording. I did. In seconds, I was surrounded by hordes of people. Miscreants, thugs etc. I was beaten, my clothes turned and my phone, car key, purse and a pouch containing my debit cards, Nigeria and US driver’s licences and other items. They took everything on me. But I fought to keep my camera.” 

While Aiyetan had recovered his phone through the help of a police personnel, his attackers took everything else. 

There was also an attack on the News Agency of Nigeria’s (NAN) vehicle while crew members were moving around to monitor the election at Liberty area of Ibadan, Oyo State. The angry youths who attacked the journalists said they were protesting hardship occasioned by naira scarcity.

Bolanle Olabimtan, TheCable’s judiciary correspondent, was injured on Saturday after suspected thugs disrupted voting at Owa Model Primary School, ward 03, Ika north-east LGA of Delta state. The thugs ordered INEC officials to stop vote counting as police officers looked away.

In Lagos, many journalists, including a HumAngle reporter, were threatened by thugs at different polling stations in the Oshodi, Amuwo Odofin and Eti-Osa areas of the state. 

As of the time of filing this piece, Haruna Muhammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes, is still being held at the Police Headquarters in Bauchi State, for filming protesting women at the hometown of Governor Bala Mohammed. 

The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), has called for the immediate release of Muhammed, saying it is crucial to note that press freedom is sacrosanct to democracy, and everyone, including state/non-state actors, should allow its elements to work without any hindrance.

The group says it will take every legal step to hold to account anyone whose action or inaction leads to the violation of the rights of any journalist during and beyond these elections. 

In the same vein,  Lanre Arogundade of the International Press Centre said “the various attacks on journalists during the general elections are condemnable and unwarranted.” He urged the police authorities to investigate the attacks and ensure that the perpetrators are dealt with. 

Before the election, HumAngle reports that some journalists who are still traumatised by previous attacks said they are scared of putting their lives on the line in 2023. 

Also, a 2019 report by the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom revealed 352 cases of harassment against journalists were recorded between 1985 and 2019. The IPC also documented at least 40 incidents of attacks against journalists in 2021.

The prevalence of violence and threats to journalists has resulted in Nigeria being ranked one of the worst countries in Reporters Without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index.

Though the federal government in 2022, made a commitment to ending violence against journalists, media practitioners covering elections continue to face harassment while doing their jobs. 

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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