Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today called on President Bola Tinubu to make a clear commitment to ensure the safety of journalists in Nigeria and bring an end to impunity for crimes against journalists by ensuring that Government officials and non-state actors who attack journalists are appropriately punished in accordance with the Law.
MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said: “On the occasion of this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we remain extremely concerned that in spite of numerous and frequently recurring cases of attacks against journalists in Nigeria, with at least 19 journalists killed over the years, no one has ever been charged with any crime for such attacks or punished for such offenses, with the result that Nigeria appears to be suggesting that attacking or killing journalists is acceptable and will attract no consequences.”
The organization noted that it is now 10 years since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2 of every year as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists by Resolution 68/163 on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity”, which it adopted on December 18, 2013 at its 68th session.
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It explained that in the resolution, the UN General Assembly urged all Member States, including Nigeria, “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.”
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MRA noted that the General Assembly also called upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference, including by means of legislative measures; awareness-raising in the judiciary and among law enforcement officers and military personnel, as well as among journalists and in civil society, regarding international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and commitments relating to the safety of journalists; the monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists; publicly condemning attacks; and dedicating the resources necessary to investigate and prosecute such attacks.
It regretted that over the last 10 years, the Federal Government had not taken any discernible measure towards fulfilling any single one of these requirements, even as attacks against journalists and other media workers have continued unabated and with impunity, including the repeated occurrence of some of the specific acts condemned by the resolution, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, physical violence against journalists, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment, among others.
Mr. Ojo said: “Under the current administration, the need to put in place mechanisms to ensure the safety of journalists ought not to be a difficult case to make. As a media owner, President Tinubu must certainly be personally aware of the important role that the media play in ensuring an informed citizenry and the emergence of a knowledge society, in providing members of the public with critical information that they require to make important decisions in their lives and in upholding the responsibility and accountability of the government to the peoples as well as the fact that the work of journalists often puts them at risk of intimidation, harassment and violence.”
According to him, “It is our hope that being better informed about these issues than his predecessors in office, the President will direct the relevant officials and agencies in his Administration to take necessary steps and work with other media stakeholders, including media professional bodies and civil society organizations, to establish a national mechanism for ensuring the safety of journalists and ending impunity for crimes against journalists.”