Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of stifling freedom of expression in the country.
The group, in a statement released to mark the World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, said the Federal Government has stepped up its attempt to crush press freedom.
The group said, “An escalating spate of arrests of journalists and intimidation of bloggers as well as the violent crushing of peaceful protests across Nigeria shows the authorities’ determination to suppress the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today on World Press Freedom Day.”
Amnesty urged the federal and state governments to respect international human rights law and the Nigerian constitution by protecting the right to freedom of expression and press freedom.
“Escalating arrests of journalists and violent disruption of peaceful protests since the start of 2017 shows a staggering decline of freedom of expression and assembly that is pushing Nigeria further down the World Press Freedom Index,” said Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International Nigeria.
“The security forces have also consistently used excessive force and intimidation to crack down on Nigerians exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Intimidation of journalists and bloggers
Amnesty cited incidences of harassment and intimidation of journalists in the country, noting that about eight journalists have “been either arrested or intimidated by the authorities”.
It alleged that state governors had also used their control over state security agencies to arrest and subject journalists to all kinds of harassment and intimidation, including charging them on frivolous grounds with the aim of silencing them.
It said, “So far at least three journalists were arrested in this manner in Kaduna state. On April 20, Midat Joseph, a journalist working with Leadership newspaper was arrested and charged with incitement by the Kaduna State government for an alleged private conversation that took place over a year ago on a WhatsApp group about the plan for a protest.
“On 16 April, news broke of the murder of Famous Giobaro a journalist with Bayelsa Radio Corporation’s Glory FM in Yenagoa. While it is now suspected that the unknown gunmen were armed robbers, the authorities still have an obligation to promptly and thoroughly investigate the case and bring whoever may be responsible to justice. Only last week, the Nigerian Union of Journalists added its voice to the calls to bring suspected killers of journalists to justice.
“Since the Cyber Crimes Act was signed into law in 2015, it has been used as a pretext to arbitrarily arrest bloggers and therefore censor Nigerian cyberspace. For example, in August last year, prominent blogger Abubakar Usman was arrested by the anti-graft agency the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who claimed he was detained for activities that contravened the Cyber Crimes Act. However, they could not point out the exact provision of the act the blogger contravened and the charges were later dropped.
Although the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan on 28 May 2011, government institutions and officials regularly deny journalists information, and in some cases threaten them for investigating issues that are in the public interest. With Punch