…Ask security agents to find missing Vanguard journalist
By Umoru Ibrahim
As the world marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against journalists today, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called on government at all levels to make deliberate and sustained efforts to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work freely and without unwarranted interference.
The editors also reminded the government that attacks on journalists have destructive effect on dissemination of information and helpful debate in a democratic space.
They also expressed concern over the way journalists are increasingly subjected to all forms of threats, including kidnapping, torture, physical attacks and other forms of harassments.
In a statement issued on Monday by NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uuwgiaren, the professional group also called on the security agencies to immediately locate a missing a journalist, Mr. Tordue Salem; investigate all forms of attacks against journalists – with the sole purpose of prosecuting the offenders.
Mr. Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, who covers the House of Representatives, has been declared missing in the past three weeks without trace of his whereabouts.
The NGE explained that the United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed every November 2 as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The Resolution, according to editors, urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.
This milestone resolution, the statement added, condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. And also urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.
While expressing worry over failure/refusal by the appropriate authorities to properly investigate threats of violence and attacks against journalists in the past few years, the NGE said that it is very troubling for an adult like Mr. Salem to just vanish into thin air for the past three weeks without a trace.
Giving instances of attacks against journalists in the past few years, the Guild said that on October 11, last years, Gimba Kakanda, a columnist with Daily Trust newspaper, was attacked by police officers, when he tried to pick up his car near the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja.
Also on October 11, 2020, the police violently attacked Arise Television cameraman, Francis Ogbonna, and a reporter, Ferdinand Duruoha, while they were covering protests in Abuja.
‘’We also have on record how some unknown gunmen – on October 12, 2020, attacked Television Continental presenter, Theophilus Elamah, in the chest and forced him and the cameraman he was working with, Julius Idowu, to leave the protest area.
‘’On October 17, 2020, Oluwatoyin Yusuf, a reporter with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC) was attacked by unidentified men while covering a protest in Ashogbo, the state capital.
‘’Also on October 21, 2020 in Lagos, unknown men attacked the offices of Lagos State Television (LST) and the TVC broadcaster.
‘’While covering the October 21 attack on TVC, Ayo Makinde, a reporter with the privately owned Channels Television broadcaster was assaulted by unidentified people,’’ the Guild added.
The NGE reminded politicians, government officials and security agents that while they like to present their success stories and their opinions, using the media to gain public respect and widen their authority; the media’s role is to question them critically, and hold them accountable to the citizens.
‘’If journalists are to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities earnestly and robustly, politicians, government officials and security agents must treat them respectfully. They must ensure regular flow of information and frank dispassionate approach in dealing with journalists,’’ the editors stated.
Aside from deadly attacks, the NGE said that it has also noticed ‘’anti-media rhetoric’’ by some senior government officials, especially the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed – that is hostile to the media; as well as the demeaning of newsworthy and accurate journalistic reportage as “fake news.”
According to the NGE, ‘’This anti-media rhetoric has lent a hand to a sense of resentment against journalists, and contributed hugely to questioning of trust in the media. And these waning levels of trust create a susceptible working atmosphere for journalists and media workers.
It added: ‘’We have also noticed that political actors – of late, some members of National Assembly, are using prerogatives of so-called fake news as a doubtful justification to criminalise journalism practice in Nigeria – with clear intention to curtail freedom of expression, suffocate democratic space and muzzle journalists in particular.’’
The editors reiterated that the media is not a political rivalry or opponent of the government; but an institution recognises by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution to at all times hold public officials accountable to the people and promotes good governance.