Ekiti Governorship Election: Checklist For Journalists By Festus Okoye

National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye

 

The Ekiti State Governorship Election is just a few days away and ahead of the polls, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, recently released a checklist for journalist who would cover the exercise. 

According to Barrister Okoye the role of the media in the election process is very critical and as such, journalists must do their homework before, during and after the election.

At a capacity building/training for newsmen on constitutional and legal issues with special emphasis on Electoral Act, 2022, the INEC National Commissioner said there are issues that are germane and cannot be ignored and the journalist must be abreast of and conscious of these issues.

According to him, here are pertinent questions that the journalist must ask in oreder to be equipped ahead of the polls. ‘

The Checklist for Ekiti Governorship Election

● Have I obtained a copy of the Constitution, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022?

Are there new issues in the Electoral Act, 2022 that will shape and impact on the organisation and conduct of the Ekiti Governorship election?

Are there significant differences in the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022?

● Do I have sufficient knowledge of the constitutive constitutional and legal instruments that will guide the conduct of the Ekiti Governorship Election?

● Is the Electoral Management Body prepared for the conduct of the election? Are the non sensitive and sensitive materials for the election in place?

Are there impediments to the smooth conduct of the election?

Do I have the delimitation details of the State?

Do I know the number of registered voters in the State?

How many of the registered voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards?

How many ad-hoc staff will be deployed by the electoral management body?

How many BVAS will be deployed? Has the Commission trained the staff in the use of the BVAS; other technological innovations and the general conduct of the election? How many collation officers will be involved in the election?

● How many of the political parties are sponsoring candidates in the election?

Are there pre-election litigation arising from the conduct of the primaries?

How many cases are in court and how many of them have been disposed of?

Are the cases likely to affect the outcome of the election?

● Are there security issues and challenges in the State? Have the security agencies and the Commission mapped out and assessed flashpoints and the areas of security need?

How many security personnel will be deployed for the conduct of the election?

Is it likely that the security forces will maintain a neutral role in the provision of election security?

● Is the situation in the State generally peaceful or is there political violence?

If so will the government’s security measures provide an environment for a free election campaign or are there substantial restrictions on the freedom of expression, association and assembly?

● Are the voters sufficiently aware of the processes and procedures for the conduct of the election?

Do the media provide equal airtime for all the competing political parties in the state?


READ ALSO: INEC Gives Atiku, Obi, Tinubu And Others One Week To Name Running Mates


Barr Festus Okoye was of the opinion that these issues and many more will underscore the election and the role of the media in the election, adding that the media remains a critical stakeholder in the political and democratic process.

“That cannot but be so, for democracy thrives with effective information flow,” Okoye stressed. “Indeed, a true democracy without effective information flow does not exist”.

He said the role of the media in the electoral process has basically been established over time, and they include, essentially, to:

● Avail the stakeholders of timely and relevant information pertaining to the electoral process

● Carry out voter education and public enlightenment

● Mobilize the electorate to participate in the electoral process though awakening in them the consciousness of taking ownership of the political process

● Give vent to the programmes and activities of the Election Management Body with a view to bringing stakeholders up to speed with developments.

● Publicize information and activities of political parties and candidates, with a view to help the electorate make informed choices.

● Ensure through their searchlight and reports that the process and rules of engagement in the electoral system are duly complied with.

For Mr Okoye, journalists covering the governorship election in Ekiti State and assigned to cover the electoral processes and procedures must have a good knowledge of the political, economic and social environment of the State and must be in a position to exercise good judgment in analyzing and taking position on some of the issues.

He noted that the objective and subjective conditions that determines the conduct and outcome of elections varies from one state to the other.

“The topography of states varies. The level of political awareness varies. The security situations in different states and in different parts of the country are not the same,” the commissioner explained.

That established, Mr Okoye said media organizations must have in their fold journalists with the requisite knowledge of the law and the constitution especially the ones guiding the conduct of elections.

“There are constitutional and legal issues in the conduct of elections and this must guide the work of the journalists and the media. The country now has a new electoral act known as and called the Electoral Act, 2022. On the 25th day of February 2022 the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed the Electoral Act 2022. The Act repeals the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and enacts the Electoral Act 2022, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections.

“There are creative and innovative provisions in the Act that will impact on the electoral process and the conduct of the Governorship election in Ekiti State and the media must have good knowledge of the provisions of the Act.

Section 160 and the third schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) give the Commission the power to make Regulations, Guidelines and Manuals. Furthermore, section 148 of the Electoral Act 2022 gives the Commission the power to issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the act and its administration.
Consequently, the Commission has issued Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022. This will apply in equal force and measure to the Ekiti Governorship election.

The Role of the Media

The INEC spokesman said the media and journalists covering elections must rise above ethnic and religious profiling, narratives and prejudices and remain vigilant, pointing out challenges, encouraging communities to resolve their differences and challenges in a peaceful manner rather than resorting to violence and extra judicial measures.

He added that with its vantage position, it will be tragic if the media are sucked into the toxic ethnic and religious narratives that can only retard the pace of democratic development. Professionalism and objectivity must at all times guide the work of the media and reportage of issues.

According to him, there is no alternative to electoral education.

“The Nigerian people must understand the value of elections and the value of the vote. The Nigerian people must be enlightened through the media and other means of mass communication to make the right choices. The media must continue to show the way in relation to electoral education,” he declared.

Barr Okoye further asserted that the media must continue to hold political parties accountable, and ensure and continue to ensure that political parties, aspirants and candidates play by the rules governing the electoral process.

He also stated that the press must ensure that all the critical stakeholders eschew violence, intimidation and corruption of the electoral process.

As part of the duties of the media, Mr Okoye said engaging with the Political Parties and the candidates in the election is pertinent, he however, emphasized that journalists must ensure that their engagements and activities do not endanger the electoral process and the health of the nation’s democracy.

‘Oxygen Of Democracy,’ NHRC Asks Nigerian Govt To Protect, Support Journalists

A photo combination of emblems of some media outfits in Nigeria.

 

The press is a critical agent for the protection of democracy and development and must be supported to enable them to effectively discharge their constitutional duties as the watchdog of the society, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said.

It observed that Nigerian journalists fought very hard to achieve the nation’s democratic status and deserve a better deal, unlike the current situation where many of them struggle with poor conditions of service among other challenges, including censorship, harassment, intimidation, and in some cases, assassinations.

NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, made the remarks on the eve of the celebration of the 2022 World Press Freedom Day which is commemorated annually on May 3.

He asked the society to see journalists as “the oxygen of democracy and agents of change and development,” adding that their constitutional duty which is enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended – “to hold the government accountable to the people” distinguishes them as those who perform an essential duty to the nation.

“At this time when Nigeria is at the crossroad of challenge of justice, equity, and fairness to stabilise our democracy, the press must defend democracy by its commitment to holding our governments accountable to the truth always no matter the difficulties of the times.

“It must remain the conscience of the nation, telling the truth at times like this, to save our democracy,” said a statement on Tuesday by the NHRC spokesperson, Fatimah Mohammed.

“This year’s theme for the celebration of World Press Freedom Day – “Journalism under digital siege” is apt as it seeks to bring to the fore, “the impact of the digital era on the freedom of the press, the security of journalists and access to information and privacy”.

 

Human Rights Defenders

The Chief Human Rights Officer stated that it is incontestable that the advent of the internet with the attendant boost in digital communication has benefited humanity in various ways, “but at the same time, it has threatened our right to privacy, since virtually nothing is hidden from the internet radar.

Ojukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said, “It is on this note that I commend UNESCO for championing the proposed World Press Freedom Day Global Conference scheduled to hold between May 2 and 5 in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

“The conference would be a forum for key players in the internet-related companies, legal experts, journalists, etc to discuss the challenges of digital communications, the impact on press freedom, and the way forward.”

According to the learned silk, the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day is not an opportunity to witch-hunt any person or institution but is a period to reminisce the fundamental principles of press freedom, gauge the state of press freedom globally, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and to pay tribute to journalists who are either human rights defenders in custody or captivity or have lost their lives in the line of duty.

He, therefore, urged the law enforcement agencies, including the police to, as a matter of necessity, intensify their investigations to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of some Nigerian journalists, including that of late Vanguard newspaper, Tordue Salem, whose body was reportedly found in Abuja in 2021.

The observance of World Press Freedom Day, which started in 1993 and is celebrated on May 3 annually, is designed to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and to remind journalists of the need to adhere to their professional ethics, defend democracy, justice, equity, and fairness and be committed as human rights defenders.

Journalists Face Attempts To Silence Them From Many Sides – UN

File photo.

 

The United Nations has called on various governments to respect the rights and protect journalists and media workers in their respective countries.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, made the call in his message to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day tagged ‘journalism under digital siege’.

He stressed the need to shine a spotlight on the essential work of journalists and other media workers who seek transparency and accountability from those in power, often at great personal risk.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many media workers have been on the frontlines, providing accurate, science-based reporting to inform decision-makers and save lives,” Guterres said. “At the same time, journalists who cover climate, biodiversity, and pollution have succeeded in bringing global attention to this triple planetary crisis.

“But the threats to the freedom of journalists and media workers are growing by the day. From global health to the climate crisis, corruption, and human rights abuses, they face increased politicisation of their work and attempts to silence them from many sides.

“Digital technology has democratised access to information. But it has also created serious challenges. The business models of many social media platforms are based not on increasing access to accurate reporting, but on increasing engagement – which often means provoking outrage and spreading lies.”

READ ALSO: ‘Oxygen Of Democracy,’ NHRC Asks Nigerian Govt To Protect, Support Journalists

According to the UN scribe, media workers in war zones are threatened not only by bombs and bullets but by the weapons of falsification and disinformation that accompany modern warfare.

He worried that such persons could be attacked as the enemy, accused of espionage, detained, or killed, simply for doing their jobs.

A photo combination of emblems of some media outfits in Nigeria.

 

Digital technology, Guterres stated, has also made censorship even easier as many journalists and editors around the world were at constant risk of their programmes and reports being taken offline.

Stressing that digital technology creates new channels for oppression and abuse, he lamented that women journalists were at particular risk of online harassment and violence.

“UNESCO found that nearly three in four women respondents had experienced online violence,” the UN chief explained, adding “Hacking and illegal surveillance also prevent journalists from doing their jobs.

“The methods and tools change, but the goal of discrediting the media and covering up the truth remains the same as ever. The results are also the same: people and societies that are unable to distinguish fact from fiction and can be manipulated in horrifying ways.

“Without freedom of the press, there are no real democratic societies. Without freedom of the press, there is no freedom. The United Nations is working to support journalists and media workers everywhere.”

Guterres explained that the UN established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists 10 years ago to protect media workers and end impunity for crimes committed against them.

“On World Press Freedom Day, we honour the essential work of the media in speaking truth to power, exposing lies, and building strong, resilient institutions and societies,” he said.

Journalists Storm Police HQ, Protest Over Missing Colleague Tordue Salem

 

Journalists on Monday stormed the police headquarters in Abuja to protest over the continued disappearance of their colleague Tordue Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers.

Mr. Salem, who is a native of Tiv, Benue State, covers the House of Representatives.

He was last seen on October 13, 2021.

The NUJ chapter in Abuja had earlier raised an alarm over his sudden disappearance.

They asked the police and DSS to help unravel the mystery surrounding Mr. Salem’s whereabouts.

READ ALSO: NUJ Asks Security Agencies To Locate ‘Missing’ Journalist

“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.

 

PHOTO: Journalists Barred From Covering Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial

Journalists were denied entry into the Federal High court in Abuja when Nnamdi Kanu’s trial resumed on October 21, 2021. PHOTO: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

For the second time in about three months, security operatives have barred journalists from covering the case of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.

At the last adjourned date in July, there was an altercation between the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and lawyers, as well as journalists.

On Thursday, some of the reporters attached to the court arrived as early as 6am but were prevented from covering the trial.

 

Although Channels Television’s correspondent and six other journalists were cleared at the main gate of the court, armed DSS operatives at the door of the courtroom denied them entry.

READ ALSO: Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

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.

 

See more photos below…

 

Osinbajo Asks Journalists To Remain Steadfast In Rule Of Law

Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

 

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.

Laolu Akande

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity

Office of the Vice President

27th September 2021

 

 

NGOs, Journalists Challenge FG’s Twitter Ban At ECOWAS Court

Twitter is also having issues with the Nigerian government.

 

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.

Cambodia Bans Media Coverage From Covid Lockdown ‘Red Zones’

A soldier (R) gives instruction as people line up to receive a dose of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school and a health centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on May 3, 2021, as part of the government’s campaign to halt the rising number of cases of the virus. PHOTO: TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

 

Cambodia on Tuesday ordered journalists to stop reporting from blockaded coronavirus “red zones” and from chasing ambulances as the country battles against a record surge in infections.

The country has seen Covid-19 cases surge since February when an outbreak was first detected among its Chinese expatriate community.

On Tuesday, officials announced a record 938 new infections, bringing the total cases to 16,299 with 107 deaths.

READ ALSO: US To Authorize Pfizer Vaccine For Age 12 And Up – Report

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.

AFP

NASS Will Never Pass Any Law To Hinder Press Freedom – Lawan

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila speak to a journalist after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa Abuja. PHOTO: State House

 

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.

READ ALSO: Train Derails In Kaduna

“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.

Signed:

Ola Awoniyi

Special Adviser(Media) to President of the Senate

Sunday, 2nd May 2021

Zamfara School Abduction: Mob Attack Journalists

 

A mob on Friday attacked a vehicle conveying journalists travelling to Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State.

Schoolgirls numbering 317 were abducted from the school in the early hours of Friday.

Youth who were angry as a result of the abduction created roadblocks inside Jangebe town and attacked the vehicles conveying journalists.

Journalists crew from Channels TV, TVC, Daily Trust, News Agency of Nigeria, and Thunder Blowers Multi-Media services were in the vehicle that was attacked.

READ ALSO: School Abductions: Education Is Under Attack In Northern Nigeria – Amnesty International

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.

Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

Supporters of Uganda opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, and local and foreign journalists are assaulted by Uganda Military Police outside the UN Human Rights offices on February 17, 2021. PHOTO: Badru KATUMBA / AFP

 

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.

READ ALSO: Iran Renews Call To US To Lift All Sanctions Imposed By Trump

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.

AFP

Belarus Jails Journalists For Two Years Over Protest Coverage

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

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.

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“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.

AFP