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World Press Freedom Day: Attacks On Journalists Pose A Threat To Democracy, By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

World Freedom Day


World Press Freedom Day: Attacks On Journalists Pose A Threat To Democracy, By Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed

Journalism is an essential cornerstone of freedom, serving as a watchdog to defend the interests of the public against oppression.

May 3rd is designated as World Press Freedom Day; however, despite this, press freedom remains unchanged, with an increase in arbitrary arrests and imprisonments of journalists, sacrificing their duty. Many journalists have been killed, while others have disappeared without a trace.

Journalism is one of the pillars that strengthen democracy and also serves as a watchdog for both private and government sectors worldwide.

Over the years, journalists have been subjected to humiliation, arrest, and violations of their fundamental human rights, and some have reportedly been killed in the course of performing their duties.

Nigeria is one of the countries that ruthlessly abuse press freedom. Many journalists have been jailed by powerful people whose secrets were exposed to the public for wrongdoing.

The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right contained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The Nigerian government often attempts to bypass laws criminalizing freedom of expression under the guise of combatting misinformation and disinformation, as they cannot tolerate criticism or fear being exposed by investigative journalism.

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Press freedom is one of the ingredients that promotes and sustains societal development. Without fear, journalists can exclusively report on public interest concerns such as corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental issues, resulting in social change and economic development.

Press freedom plays a crucial role in nurturing a vibrant business landscape, promoting transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. These elements fuel innovation and entrepreneurship. Moreover, it empowers citizens to engage in debates, participate in civic activities, and make well-informed decisions on socio-political issues.

Some journalists have been arrested and jailed. In Kwara State alone, almost ten journalists were arrested and detained. Dare Akogun and Abdulrasheed Akogun were among those arrested, as were Aiyelabegan Babatunde AbdulRazaq and Oluwatoyin Luqman Bolakale.

Two journalists, Salihu Ayatullahi and Adisa-Jaji Azeez, the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of Informant247, were arrested by the Nigeria Police Force, Kwara State Command, for exposing corruption involving the Rector of Kwara State Polytechnic.

Mr. Dele Fasan, the South-South Bureau Chief of Galaxy Television, was arrested and injured for filming at the scene of a planned protest against the economic hardship in the country.

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A popular broadcast journalist, Chinonso Uba, from Owerri, Imo State, was accosted by cops wearing masks, dressed in black and blue attire, heavily armed. Also, a journalist, Achadu Gabriel Idibia, of Daybreak Newspapers, was arrested in Kaduna.

Kasarachi Aniagolu, a journalist with the Whistler Newspaper in Abuja, was arrested by the anti-violence crime unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) while covering a raid on bureau de change (BDC) operators in the Wuse Zone 4 area of Abuja.

Recently, Segun Olatunji, the Editor of FirstNews and former Kaduna Bureau Chief of The PUNCH, was abducted from his home in the Iyana Odo area of Abule Egba, Lagos State, by a group of armed soldiers.

Mr. Olatunji was subjected to humiliation in his line of duty. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, and thrown into an underground cell for over a week for exposing corruption.

The aforementioned names are just to illustrate how press freedom in Nigeria has been threatened by the Nigerian authorities, who employ security agencies to arrest, humiliate, and oppress journalists.

Journalists across the board need to defend press freedom at all costs, as the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Journalism is not a crime, and it should not be equated with terrorism. Journalism is an essential cornerstone of freedom, serving as a watchdog to defend the interests of the public against oppression.

It is high time for the Nigerian government and big companies that have been exposed for corruption and wrongdoing to cease using security agencies to obtain information about journalists and organizations that expose their corrupt activities to the public. This includes refraining from paying security agencies to track and abduct journalists in a Gestapo-like manner.

Many editors have been alleged to be a threat to press freedom in Nigeria. Some editors sit in their offices and make calls with top politicians after receiving brown envelopes from oppressors. They expose their colleagues to danger by writing articles praising or solidifying what oppressors did to arrest or jail journalists.

Journalists need to start calling a spade a spade and actively campaign for imposing sanctions or other diplomatic measures against governments or individuals who engage in or condone violence against journalists. This is essential for holding governments and other actors accountable.

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