Reporters Without Borders today deplored the appalling threats and constraints under which Nigerian journalists work, with two of them currently in hiding because of an arrest order issued by a judge on 16 May and third receiving repeated telephone threats because of an article published yesterday.
“The absence of change at the head of the federal government apparently means that nothing will change for Nigerian journalists, either,” the press freedom organisation said. “Arrests, beatings, intimidation and threats are their daily lot, whoever is president. With the murders of two journalists in 2006 still unpunished, it is high time the government seriously tackled the problem of press freedom violations.”
A court in Oshogbo (the capital of the southwestern state of Osun) headed by judge Jide Falola issued arrest warrants on 16 May for Kola Olabisi, the editor of the privately-owned weekly Osun Defender, reporter Sola Jacobs and Amitolu Shittu, a human rights activist and president of the Committee for Democracy and Rights of the People.
The warrants were issued in response to a 14 May report in the Osun Defender, headlined “Osun Police Arrest 764 Over Election Protest,” about a news conference that Shittu gave in which he condemned irregularities in a trial of demonstrators who had protested against the alleged rigging of the 14 April presidential election. Judge Falolo was accused in the article of releasing demonstrators in return for bribes. All three men have been in hiding since the warrants were issued.
Meanwhile, journalist Adeola Balogun has been receiving death threats by telephone every since the Saturday Punch - the Saturday supplement of the privately-owned daily The Punch - yesterday published an article of hers headlined “Whose Baby Is This?” about a possible case of baby theft. Its publication lead to the arrest of a woman who had wrongly claimed to be a baby’s mother.
The two journalists murdered last year were Godwin Agbroko and Omololu Falobi. A prominent editorialist who wrote a regular bylined column for the privately-owned daily This Day, Agbroko was founded shot dead at the wheel of his car at a road side in the Lagos neighbourhood of Omololu shortly after he left his office on the evening of 22 December 2006.
The founder and executive director of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) and a former reporter with The Punch, Falobi was killed in similar fashion shortly after leaving his NGO in the Lagos neighbourhood of Ogba on 5 October 2006. Neither of these murders has been solved.