“For all us journalists in Abuja, we have been on edge these past few days over the mysterious disappearance of our colleague and friend, Mr. Tordue Salem,” the statement, signed by the union’s Chairman, Emmanuel Ogbeche and Secretary, Ochiaka Ugwu, said.
“It is worrying that an adult will simply vanish into thin air without a trace. This is unacceptable and we urge the police and DSS to rise up to the occasion and provide answers to this troubling situation”.
However, during Monday’s protest at the police headquarters in Abuja, the Police PRO addressed the crowd, saying efforts are ongoing to locate Mr. Salem, and assured that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba is interested in the case and would see it to the end.
The operatives insisted their action was based on “order from above”.
One of the DSS operatives, however, claimed that they were waiting for a directive from the trial judge, Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, on how many journalists should be allowed to go in and cover the proceedings.
Another DSS operative, who addressed a few journalists at the entrance of Court 2 – the courtroom where the proceedings took place, stated that they were instructed to ensure journalists remained at the press centre.
According to him, that is where the journalists will be screened – after getting a clearance from the trial judge.
No journalist was eventually allowed into the courtroom to cover the trial.
Meanwhile, a source inside the courtroom notified reporters that the embattled IPOB leader took his fresh plea to the seven amended charges at about 10:45am.
When the charges were read to him, he pleaded not guilty.
Justice Nyako, thereafter, adjourned the case until November 10 to hear Kanu’s application, challenging the competence of the charges.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, called on journalists to remain steadfast in the rule of law and press freedom in the country.
He stated this on Monday when he received the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Chris Isiguzo, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
According to the vice president, it is the duty of the press, as well as politicians and others, to ensure Nigeria remains safe, secure, and united.
Stressing the importance of such as responsibility, he thanked journalists for their civic vigilance and appealed for more collaboration with the government to protect the information space.
The vice president equally called on stakeholders in Nigeria to replicate such efforts in the interest of security and unity.
Read the full statement issued by the Vice President’s office below:
OSINBAJO TO JOURNALISTS:
YOUR CIVIC VIGILANCE, STEADFAST BELIEF IN RULE OF LAW, COMMENDABLE
*NUJ commends Buhari administration for youth empowerment, job creation initiatives
Nigerian journalists got kudos from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN for what he described as their commendable “civic vigilance” regarding the country.
He then reminded the journalists that like other Nigerians, “this country is ours, whether we are press, politicians or religious people, the country is ours, and we must do everything to ensure that the country remains safe, secure, and united, and this so important.”
Prof. Osinbajo stated this today when he received at the Presidential Villa, the national executive of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) led by its President, Mr Chris Isiguzo.
According to the VP, “I thank you for your civic vigilance, for the very kind words you have spoken about Nigeria, and for remaining steadfast in your belief for the rule of law and press freedom in the country.”
He said further that “as I keep saying, the elite in our country, those of us who have had the benefit of education, positions and all of that, we owe millions of our people who are poor, who have no access and have no voice, a duty to ensure that we don’t let things become worse for them.”
Referring to other places where the press and government collaborated to protect the information space, the VP called on stakeholders in Nigeria to replicate such efforts in the interest of security and unity.
His words: “There are so many countries faced with a national challenge and where you have people who are prepared to subvert the entire republic, the press works actively with the government to ensure that the information space is protected in such a way that people who want to subvert the republic are not allowed to do so.
“But I think it is important because your voices as respected members of the fourth estate of the realm, your voices are very important in moderating the kinds of views that we hear constantly which in the end, (if care is not taken) subverts the polity.”
Continuing, the VP noted that “it is important for us to continue to emphasize that the unity of this country is crucial because if this country breaks up in any way or becomes the subject of what some people will like it to be, all of us will lose out. Obviously, the elite will survive in any way but the vast majority of our people will not.
“So, I will urge that we should as much as possible do whatever we can in our spaces that we occupy to keep emphasizing that we cannot afford a situation where the national unity of this country is compromised or where the country is made the theater of conflict and all sorts of insurgencies and crimes.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, the President of the union, Mr Isiguzo commended the initiatives of the Buhari administration in the areas of employment opportunity creation, skills training for the youth, among others.
He said in acknowledgment of its role in the society, the union has over the years “engaged in training and retraining of Journalists with assistance from various development partners to build the capacity of journalists to effectively bring to public attention humanitarian situations in the country in a fair manner, honestly, and constructively.”
Mr Isiguzo noted that the union frowned against fake news and would do everything in its powers to check the menace, calling on “journalists to be careful not to be tempted into propagating fake news by ensuring proper and adequate checks before stories are written and transmitted for public consumption.”
The NUJ president also restated the call for a bailout fund to be provided for the media industry, noting that many media houses are forced to cut salaries or lay off their workers because of the increasing difficulty to sustain operations.
National executive members of the union present at the meeting include the Deputy President, Alhaji Mukhtar Gidado; National Secretary, Shuaibu Leman; President of the National Association of Women Journalists, (NAWOJ), Ladi Bala; FCT Chairman of the union, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche, among others.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Five non-governmental organisations and four journalists have filed a suit against the Federal Government at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja.
In the suit filed on Monday, they asked the court to declare the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria a violation of their human rights under international law.
They also want the court to order the government to immediately rescind the suspension order and compensate them for the violation of their rights.
The NGO applicants are Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), the International Press Centre (IPC), and Tap Initiative for Citizens Development (TICD), while the journalists are David Hundeyin, Samuel Ogundipe, Blessing Oladunjoye, and Nwakamri Apollo.
The suit, lodged with number ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21 ECW/CCJ/APP/29/21, in a 73-page documentation, was filed on their behalf by Abuja-based human rights and free expression lawyer, Mojirayo Nkanga, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, and the Nigerian Constitution, among others.
The applicants claimed that Nigeria’s ongoing suspension of Twitter, which came into effect on or around June 4, violated their right to freedom of expression and interfered with the ability of the journalists to do their work.
Similarly, they alleged that the general situation in Nigeria with respect to human rights has created an environment where freedom of expression was stifled, stressing that it has contributed to creating a chilling effect on press and media freedom.
According to them, Nigeria has consented to be bound by the obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression under the ICCPR and the ACHPR and therefore, any limitation imposed by the government on the right to freedom of expression can only be justifiable where the restriction is provided by law, serves a legitimate aim, and is necessary and proportionate in a democratic society.
Contending that these three conditions must all be met before any restriction on the right to freedom of expression can be considered legitimate, the applicants noted that the suspension of Twitter was not provided by law, that there was no justification for it under Nigeria’s domestic laws, and that it was done by the government in an arbitrary manner in circumstances where there was no public or judicial oversight, transparency or accountability.
They, therefore, asked the court to declare the indefinite suspension of Twitter a continuous violation of their human rights under international law, particularly the right to seek and receive information, as well as the right to express and disseminate opinions under Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter; Article 19(2) of the ICCPR and the rights of journalists under Article 66(2)(c) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.
They also sought a declaration that the government’s directive, through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), for the deactivation of Twitter accounts in Nigeria violated their human rights under international law and that the threat by the Attorney-General of the Federation to criminally prosecute anybody found to be using Twitter in Nigeria following the suspension of the platform also violated their human rights under international law.
They urged the court to issue orders mandating the government to immediately take all necessary measures to rescind the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and to take all necessary measures to guarantee non-recurrence in order to prevent the same violation from occurring in the future.
They also want the court to compel the government to issue adequate reparations, including restitution, compensation, and measures of satisfaction to them to be specified and submitted to the court, as well as to issue an order of injunction restraining the government, its servants, and agents from imposing criminal sanctions on individuals, including the applicants, who use Twitter or any other social media service provider.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Authorities have transformed schools and wedding party halls into covid treatment centres as hospitals are running out of beds and Prime Minister Hun Sen warned the country was “on the brink of death” from the virus outbreak.
Phnom Penh and adjacent city Ta Khmau have been under lockdown for 20 days and the government has announced the blanket would end from Thursday.
But authorities said areas with high infection rates would remain under lockdown.
Police have set up blockades around red zones barring residents from leaving their homes, except on medical reasons.
On Tuesday the information ministry ordered journalists to immediately stop reporting from the red zones, warning they would face prosecution.
The ministry said some journalists had reported from red zones and banned areas such as treatment centres and hospitals.
It also said some had “chased ambulances” and caused confusion and unrest.
The order comes as residents living in red zones complained about food shortages and took to social media to appeal for essential aid.
Rights group Amnesty International issued a strong condemnation of Cambodia’s lockdown measures last week, saying they had left many people to go hungry and humanitarian groups had been barred from distributing food and other essential aid.
“The Cambodian government’s outrageous mishandling of this COVID-19 lockdown is causing untold suffering and sweeping human rights violations across the country,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.
“Right now, residents of ‘red zones’ and others in Cambodia are going hungry because of fundamentally unreasonable policies.”
Cambodian authorities have asked residents in the red zones to apply for food aid and said they distributed rice and canned fishes to tens of thousands of households each day.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has felicitated with Nigerian journalists on the occasion of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day, saying the National Assembly under his watch will not suppress press freedom.
Lawan in a statement issued on Sunday by his spokesman, Ola Awoniyi, May 3 is set aside every year to remind governments around the world of their obligation to facilitate and respect press freedom, and also to remind journalists of the need to respect the ethics of their profession.
“The Ninth Senate and the National Assembly, in general, will never pass any law that inhibits the freedom of the press but rather work with the media to further enhances the practice of the profession,” he said.
“I also celebrate the Nigerian journalists for the invaluable contributions and sacrifices that they have made throughout our national history to nation-building and entrenchment of democracy.
“I pay tribute to the patriots who have lost their lives in the line of duty and pray that their death will not be in vain.”
“It is in this light that I call on the practitioners to purge their noble profession of the bad eggs whose nefarious activities are denting the credibility and reputation of the mainstream practitioners.
“The leadership organs of the profession also need to adopt practical measures to check the activities of the purveyors of fake news.
“My belief is that the menace of fake news is capable of eroding the integrity and credibility of the media in general, and this should not be allowed to happen,” Lawan said.
The Senate President wishes the media a happy celebration.
The angry youths hurled stones at the vehicles and smashed part of the vehicle, causing injury on one of the cameramen, Babangida Calipha.
The situation at Jangebe community is tensed as residents have mobilised themselves blocking security operatives, journalists, and government officials from getting access to the main town.
In reaction to the abduction of the schoolgirls, the Zamfara Police Commissioner, Abutu Yaro said a joint search and rescue operation is already underway with a view to rescuing them.
Yaro added that the Force Commander Operations Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande, Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau, and other state government officials led a heavily armed re-enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to have been whisked to.
Six Ugandan soldiers were handed prison sentences of up to three months by a military court on Thursday for taking part in the brutal beating of local journalists covering the country’s opposition leader.
The seven injured journalists were covering an effort by opposition leader Bobi Wine to file a petition on Wednesday with the United Nations against human rights abuses, when they were set upon by security forces.
One of the journalists remained hospitalised with a deep head wound, according to the Uganda Editors’ Guild.
The 38-year-old former popstar Wine has alleged January’s election was rigged, and his petition to the UN detailed alleged abuses such as illegal detentions, torture, forced disappearances, and continued harassment of opposition groups.
The journalists were injured as military police chased his supporters away from the United Nations’ offices in Kampala.
An army statement said a disciplinary committee of the court-martial had “convened and deliberated on its officers and militants who misbehaved and assaulted members of the fourth estate”.
Six soldiers were given detentions of between 60-90 days and a seventh was issued with a severe reprimand, it said.
A first statement identified four soldiers who had been jailed, but a later statement gave the names of two more.
Also on Thursday defence forces chief David Muhoozi called a press conference to apologise to the media, promising to pay for the medical care of the injured journalists.
Journalists in Uganda often face rough treatment at the hands of security forces, which soared during an election marred by the worst bloodshed in years, as well as a sustained crackdown on government critics.
Shortly before the election, when asked why police were assaulting journalists, police chief Martin Ochola said it was for their own good, and refused to apologise.
“We are telling you there’s a danger there, but you are insisting you must go where there is danger. Yes, we shall beat you for your own sake, to help you understand not to go there. Yes, we shall use reasonable force to ensure that you don’t go where there’s a risk,” he said.
The head of the UN in Uganda, Rosa Malango, condemned Wednesday’s attack.
“We deplore the excessive use of force by military police which contravened the arrangements made… to ensure safe delivery of this petition”.
US Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown said journalists should not be attacked for doing their job: “Those who violate press freedom must be held to account.”
The incident was also widely condemned by media and civil society institutions.
“We note with concern that attacks against journalists which started during the campaigns for presidential elections continue to date and appear to have become an operational norm for Ugandan security personnel,” the Federation for African Journalists said.
A court in Belarus on Thursday sentenced a pair of television journalists to two years in prison for covering a protest last year, the first lengthy jail term in a legal crackdown on independent news media.
Standing defiant in a cage, Katerina Bakhvalova, 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, flashed V for victory signs as they smiled and blew kisses to the courtroom ahead of the verdict.
The two women were detained in November while filming one of the anti-government rallies that swept Belarus after strongman Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in an August election that the opposition said was rigged.
The women, who denied their guilt on the first day of their trial earlier this month, were accused of “attracting people to participate in a mass event” via their broadcast and convicted of leading “group actions that grossly violate public order”.
Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya praised the two journalists for their defiance following the verdict.
“I know that we will not live in a cage. We will achieve truth and freedom — thanks to Ekaterina Andreyeva, Daria Chultsova, all honest journalists,” she wrote on her Telegram channel, using Bakhvalova’s pen name.
The case has sparked widespread condemnation from Western countries and advocacy groups.
Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Belarusian authorities to “stop treating journalists as their enemies”, while the president of neighbouring Poland called for “an amnesty”.
“At the same time, Poland calls on all partners in the European Union to respond in solidarity, consistently and resolutely to the latest manifestation of suppression of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Krzysztof Szczerski, an advisor to Polish President Andrzej Duda, wrote on Twitter.
EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano called the case a continuation of a “shameful crackdown on media” and said the bloc “strongly condemns” the prison sentences.
– ‘Absurd situation’ –
After protests erupted last year, Belarusian authorities unleashed a crackdown that left at least four dead and thousands in jail.
Bakhvalova and Chultsova, who work for the Poland-based television channel Belsat, were detained while filming a rally in November in support of a protester the opposition believes died at the hands of Lukashenko’s security services.
“I showed these events live. For this I was thrown into jail on trumped-up charges,” Belsat reported Bakhvalova as telling the judge Wednesday in her final statement before sentencing.
“It’s an absurd situation because the journalists were just covering the protest,” her lawyer told reporters after the ruling outside the court in the Belarusian capital Minsk.
The demonstrator, 31-year-old former soldier Roman Bondarenko, died from brain damage in Minsk after police arrested him.
Investigators later said he showed signs of intoxication, but independent Belarusian media cited a doctor as saying no alcohol had been found in his system.
The journalist who published the story, Katerina Borisevich, and the doctor, Artyom Sorokin, were soon detained on charges of “divulging medical secrets, which entailed grave consequences”. They are set to face trial on Friday.
The prosecutor general’s office said in a statement Thursday that it had opened a criminal case into Bondarenko’s death.
– Growing crackdown –
Lukashenko weathered the protests and last week claimed his ex-Soviet country had defeated a foreign intervention.
As the demonstrations subside, the authorities are pursuing a number of criminal cases against activists and the press.
Eleven journalists are currently detained in connection with the protests, according to the independent Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ).
On Wednesday a trial also began of leading opposition member Viktor Babaryko, who was arrested ahead of the presidential election after he announced he would run against Lukashenko.
The former banker was one of several opposition figures who were arrested or fled the country.
Several Western leaders have refused to recognise the election results, and the European Union has imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies.
But Lukashenko continues to receive Moscow’s backing and the Kremlin said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet with him next week.
More than 600 journalists have died of Covid-19 last year since March 1, a press freedom organisation said, calling for media workers to have priority access to vaccines.
The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), which tracks the death of journalists around the world, said that of the 602 media workers known to have died from the new coronavirus, more than half were from Latin America, with 303 fatalities.
Some 145 deaths were recorded in Asia, with 94 in Europe, 32 in North America and 28 in Africa.
The PEC said it was not possible to differentiate journalists who had become infected whilst working, and their list also includes retired journalists.
The Geneva-based group said it believes journalists “should have priority access to immunisation upon request”.
“Because of their profession, journalists who go into the field to testify are particularly exposed to the virus. Some of them, especially freelancers and photographers, can’t just work from home,” PEC secretary-general Blaise Lempen said in a statement.
The PEC tally is based on information from local media, national associations of journalists, and regional PEC correspondents.
It said the actual number would be higher than 602 as the cause of journalists’ deaths is sometimes not specified, their deaths are not announced or there is no reliable local information.
Peru has the heaviest death toll at 93 journalists, followed by Brazil (55), India (53), Mexico (45), Ecuador (42), Bangladesh (41), Italy (37) and the United States (31).
The international non-profit organisation founded in 2004 supports requests for financial assistance from the families of journalists who have died from Covid-19.
Global activists and celebrities have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the release of all #EndSARS protesters, as well as activists and journalists jailed in various parts of the country.
They made the call in an open letter dated December 10, 2020, and addressed to the President – a copy of which was sighted by Channels Television on Thursday.
The 60 activists and celebrities, under the auspices of Diaspora Rising, asked President Buhari to ensure the reinstatement of the international passports, bank accounts, and other items seized from the jailed persons.
They demanded that the military, security, and intelligence officers found culpable in the incident at the Lekki toll plaza, either giving the order or carrying out the shooting, must be made to face the consequences of their actions.
Signatories to the letter included Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr; US activist Opal Tometi; as well as actors Danny Glover and Kerry Washington.
Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg, singer Alicia Keys, civil rights campaigner Angela Davis, US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Nigerian-American rapper Jidenna, among others, also signed the letter.
According to them, the President should allow a transparent investigation by human rights monitors into the actions that led to the shooting at the Lekki tollgate and ensure the findings are published by media outfits accredited nationally and internationally.
The signatories also called on the President to support peaceful demonstrations in any part of the country to allow citizens exercise their constitutional right to protest.
“As people who have supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and throughout the diaspora, we cannot be silent when similar atrocities take place in African countries.
“We demand respect for the Nigerian people, especially as they engage in their constitutional right to protest grave injustices,” part of the letter read.
It added, ”As President of the world’s most populous Black republic, you assume a leadership role on the global stage. Nigeria matters.
“We expect nothing short of care for your people and concern for the reputation of your country. As Nigeria is a major powerhouse for the continent of Africa, you must know, President Buhari, that your response has exponential implications for the continent and the African diaspora.”
The number of incidents of violence against journalists covering protests across the world has risen sharply, with police and security forces the main culprits, the United Nations cultural agency said on Monday.
UNESCO said it had counted 21 protests between January and June of this year where journalists were attacked, arrested or killed.
The organisation, whose role includes monitoring media developments, said in a report the spike came as part of “a wider upward trend in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces over the last five years”.
At least 10 journalists were killed during protests between 2015 and mid-2020 when there were 125 instances of attacks on, or arrests of, reporters, according to UNESCO which investigated protests in 65 countries for the report.
The reporters who died on the job worked in Syria, Mexico, Israel, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Nigeria and Iraq.
“Hundreds of journalists around the world trying to cover protests have been harassed, beaten, intimidated, arrested, put under surveillance, abducted, and had their equipment damaged,” the report said, adding that “a majority of the attacks” had been carried out by police and security forces.
“Police use of non-lethal ammunition ranging from rubber bullets to pepper balls, has injured dozens of journalists, with a few having been left blinded in one eye” it said.
Often police don’t have to fear punishment for their treatment of reporters. “Impunity has continued to remain the norm in recent years for attacks on the press covering protests,” UNESCO said.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called on governments to make sure that journalists can do their job without fear for their safety.
“Journalists have a critical role in reporting and informing audiences on protest movements,” she said in a statement.
“We call on the international community and all relevant authorities to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld.”
UNESCO said protests are often about economic injustice, government corruption, the decline of political freedoms, and growing authoritarianism, giving some governments a vested interest in preventing balanced reporting.
“The UN in several resolutions has expressed concern at hostile rhetoric by political leaders against the press,” it said.