Fighting brutality against journalists

Fighting brutality against journalists

Saturday, November 5, 2016 11:04 am

Information Officer, US Embassy, Russell Brooks and Founders of CABSOJA, Desmond-Utomwen and Ugochukwu Ezekiel

Information Officer, US Embassy, Russell Brooks and Founders of CABSOJA, Desmond-Utomwen and Ugochukwu Ezekiel

Just like in other areas of life, Nigeria’s position the Committee to Protect Journalist, CPJ’s 2016 Global Impunity Index is an unenviable one.

The  Index which “spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free,” is compiled based on the number of unsolved murders (cases with no convictions) over a 10-year period as a share of a country’s population.

CPJ defines murder as “a deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim’s work.”

Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan are the three African countries featured in the 2016 Index.

Nigeria ranked 12th  on the index with five unsolved murders of journalists in the past decade.

According to CPJ, Nigeria has failed to prosecute or identify the killers of any of the killed journalists in the past 10 years, just as the country has failed to take action on other forms of impunity against journalists perpetrated mostly by security operatives.

As compiled by CPJ, journalists who have lost their lives in the course of doing their jobs in Nigeria and whose killers have neither been identified or brought to justice include Enenche Akogwu, Channels TV who was killed on January 20, 2012, in Kano and Zakariya Isa, a staff of Nigerian Television Authority, NTA who was also killed on 22 October,  2011.

Both journalists were murdered in Kano and Maiduguri respectively by suspected Boko Haram terrorists.

In recognition of the fact that impunity is one of the greatest threats to press freedom globally, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 2013, recognising November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.

The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, the UN agency championing the November 2 commemoration, recorded 827 killings of journalists around the world from 2006 to 2016.

UNESCO however described 2015 as the second worst year for journalists in the last 10 years with the killing of  115 journalists.

In 2014, UNESCO recorded 98 cases of killing of journalists.

In his message to mark the day, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Frank La Rue said the global body is concerned that impunity damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crime.

La Rue called  Governments, civil society, the media, and everyone concerned to uphold the rule of law and join in the global efforts to end impunity.

In Nigeria, a pro-media rights group, Campaign Against Brutality and For Safety of Journalists in Africa (CABSOJA) echoed La Rue admonition with call on government at all levels and other authorities to formulate and implement the necessary actions and policies that would ensure that journalists are protected from any form of assault and brutality in the course of their constitutional duty of holding government accountable to the people.

The Founders of the group, Mr. Desmond Utomwen and Ugochukwu Ezikiel stated this on Wednesday in Abuja during a press conference to mark the International Day against Brutality of Journalists.

“Every year, dozens of journalists are either murdered or imprisoned across the world for attempting to report facts. These happen as authorities and interested parties seek to silence and retaliate against critical voices’’, the group stated.

‘’For example, the report by the Committee on the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) on Prison Census shows that a total of 199 journalists were jailed worldwide in 2015 alone, while over 1214 Journalists have been killed since 1992. Nigeria accounts for 10 of these Journalists murdered in the line of duty since 1992.

Co founder, CABSOJA, Desmond Utomwen with the National leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and officials

Co founder, CABSOJA, Desmond Utomwen with the National leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and officials

‘’Similarly, the CPJ’s Impunity Index Report released in 2015 listed Nigeria among the countries that met the index criteria. Countries listed on the index by CPJ have at least five unsolved cases that took place between September 1, 2005, and August 31, 2015.’’

The group added that with five murders without a single perpetrator being convicted, Nigeria held a place on CPJ’s Impunity Index for the third year in a row, noting that at least two journalists have been killed by individuals affiliated with Boko Haram, according to CPJ research, while others, like prominent news editor Bayo Ohu, were killed in connection with their reporting on local politics.

‘’No doubt, we must act together to change this,” the pro-media rights group added.

CABSOJA noted that in response to the dangerous trend of assault against journalists, world leaders, at the 68 Session of the United Nations General Assembly, adopted a resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

The rights group noted that the UN resolution was affirmation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as well as the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the Additional Protocols thereto.

The UN, CABSOJA further noted acknowledged that journalism is continuously evolving to include inputs from media institutions, private individuals and a range of organizations that seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, online as well as offline, in the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, in accordance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thereby contributing to shape public debate.

The UN resolution also recognized the relevance of freedom of expression and of free media in building inclusive knowledge societies and democracies and in fostering intercultural dialogue, peace and good governance, and also that the work of journalists often puts them at specific risk of intimidation, harassment and violence.

The group also noted that the UN had in recognition of the fact that attacks against journalists constitutes one of the main challenges media practice said media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected.

The UN had also urged member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into all alleged violence against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction and to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.

CABSOJA added that it is against the background of this UN declaration that its members are leading the campaign against the assaults on journalists.

The media rights group said it has a vision and a mission to seek and promote a safe working environment for journalists and all media workers.

‘’We therefore, are today joining forces with related bodies across the globe in waging a global campaign to combat impunity. Our collective voices must be raised against assault on journalists and speak out loudly for justice’’, the group said.

The media rights group therefore called on all stakeholders to close ranks to ensure effective justice delivery system, promotion of harmonious working relationship between journalists and security operatives while admonishing journalists to ensure observance of  professional ethics in their practice.


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