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Editors condemn violent attacks on journalists

...Asks security agents to find missing Vanguard correspondent

Nigerian editors have stressed that attacks on journalists have destructive effect on dissemination of information and helpful debate in a democratic space.

The editors also conveyed their worry over the manner journalists are increasingly subjected to kidnapping, torture, physical attacks and other forms of threats and harassment.

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) expressed the concerns through a statement issued on Monday by NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, in commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against journalists.

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The NGE urged government at all levels to make deliberate and sustained efforts to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work freely.

The professional group also called on the security agencies to immediately locate a missing a journalist, Mr. Tordue Salem; investigate all forms of attacks against journalists – with the sole purpose of prosecuting the offenders.

Mr. Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, who covers the House of Representatives, has been missing in the past few weeks.

November 2 of ever year was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly as the ‘’International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The resolution urges Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.

The NGE described as very troubling that an adult like Mr. Salem would just vanish into thin air for the past three weeks without a trace, while also expressing concern over refusal by the appropriate authorities to properly investigate threats of violence and attacks against journalists in the past few years.

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Providing examples of attacks against journalists in the past two years, the Guild recalled that on October 11, last years, Gimba Kakanda, a columnist with Daily Trust newspaper, was attacked by police officers, when he tried to pick up his car near the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja.

Similarly, the police violently attacked Arise Television cameraman, Francis Ogbonna, and a reporter, Ferdinand Duruoha, while they were covering protests in Abuja on October 11, 2020.

‘’We also have on record how some unknown gunmen – on October 12, 2020, attacked Television Continental presenter, Theophilus Elamah, in the chest and forced him and the cameraman he was working with, Julius Idowu, to leave the protest area.

The NGE further recalled that, ‘’On October 17, 2020, Oluwatoyin Yusuf, a reporter with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), was attacked by unidentified men while covering a protest in Oshogbo, the state capital.”

‘’Also on October 21, 2020 in Lagos, unknown men attacked the offices of Lagos State Television (LTV) and the TVC broadcaster.

‘’While covering the October 21 attack on TVC, Ayo Makinde, a reporter with the privately owned Channels Television broadcaster was assaulted by unidentified people’’, the NGE added.

The editors noted that while politicians, government officials and security agents like to present their success stories and their opinions, using the media to gain public respect and widen their authority, the media’s role is to question them critically, and hold them accountable to the people.

‘’If journalists are to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities earnestly and robustly”, the editors stated, “politicians, government officials and security agents must treat them respectfully. They must ensure regular flow of information and frank dispassionate approach in dealing with journalists”.

The Guild noted that apart from deadly attacks, “anti-media rhetoric” by some politicians and senior government officials – that is hostile to the media is on the increase.

“This anti-media rhetoric has lent a hand to a sense of resentment against journalists, and contributed hugely to questioning of trust in the media, and creating a susceptible working atmosphere for journalists and media workers”.