Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very concerned about the physical attacks against Nigerian journalists and media in connection with the continuing protests against President Muhammadu Buhari and against violence by the SARS police unit, and calls on the authorities to put a stop to the attacks and guarantee the safety of media personnel.
During yesterday’s “#EndSARS” protests in Lagos, the commercial capital, part of the TVC News channel’s studios and several of its cars were set ablaze, while gunmen on motorcycles invaded the headquarters of The Nation, one of the most popular privately-owned newspapers, and set fire to its facade. Both of these media outlets are linked to Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor who is a national leader of the All Progressive Congress, Nigeria’s ruling party. According to the information obtained by RSF, at least three other broadcast media – Channels Television, Africa Independent Television and Ray Power Radio – were forced to suspend broadcasting after similar attacks in Lagos and Benin City.
Many journalists have also been physically attacked, either by violent protesters or police officers, since the start of these major protests, in which dozens of people have been killed. On 11 October, Daily Trustreporter Gimba Kakanda was roughed up inside a police station in Abuja, the capital, after being arrested. He said the police punctured the tyres of his car, threw his phone to the ground and threatened to kill him. RSF has so far registered 12 attacks against journalists since the start of these protests.
“The grave violence against Nigerian journalists and media outlets makes us fear the worst,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The authorities must not wait until journalists covering the protests join the list of victims. We ask them to put an end to the violence against reporters and to guarantee their safety when they are targeted. It is unacceptable that Nigeria continues, year after year, to be one of the only West African countries where journalists risk their lives when covering major demonstrations.”
Two journalists, Alex Ogbu and Precious Owolabi, were killed by live rounds while covering protests in Abuja in January 2020 and July 2019 respectively. Those responsible have never been identified.
Nigeria is ranked 115th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.