Two journalists were allegedly attacked while covering alleged voting irregularities in the recently concluded Edo governorship elections.
The journalists were identified as Samson Adenekan, a reporter with an online news medium, Premium Times; as well as Offem Nathaniel Ubanga, a cameraman with the privately owned online broadcaster, GeeTV Africa
This was disclosed by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Equally important, CPJ is an American independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York. The body fights for press freedom and defends the rights of journalists worldwide.
Further, CPJ has urged the Nigerian government to investigate the recent attacks on journalists; even as it called on the government to hold those responsible to account.
Details of the attack indicate that on Saturday, September 19, the day of the Edo polls; a group of at least 50 unidentified men attacked Adenekan and Ubanga while they were separately covering the aelection. The incident allegedly took place in Iyamho town, Edo state.
This was confirmed by both journalists, who spoke to CPJ in phone interviews and via a messaging app.
Specifically, the attacks began after Adenekan and Ubanga filmed members of the group allegedly attempting to bribe people to vote for certain candidates in the Edo elections. The men whom Adenekan and Ubanga filmed allegedly bribing voters noticed the journalists filming them. Subsequently, they asked the journalists to delete the incriminating footage.
When Adenekan refused to delete his footage, the men allegedly dragged him by his shirt and slapped him. They also threatened to kill him. Adenekan stated that they forced him into deleting the videos he had taken. However, he revealed that he did not sustain serious injuries from the incident.
Adenekan said he believed at least two of the attackers were members of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The APC is ruling party at the centre but is the opposition party in Edo state. He added that he had seen the same men at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, during previous reporting.
On his part, Ubanga told CPJ that dozens of men slapped him across his body. They also hit him on his back and neck with a chair. Ubanga told them he could not delete the photos he had taken because his camera battery had died. Further, he told them the phone he had also used to take photos with was not his own; adding that he could not unlock it. He said the men only stopped assaulting him after fellow journalists and about five police officers intervened.
Further, Ubanga told CPJ that he did not delete any of his content; noting that he did not suffer any serious injuries. However, he said he experienced aches and pains in the days following the attack
Meanwhile, CPJ documented similar violence and harassment of journalists in Nigeria. The incidents spanned gubernatorial and state assembly elections across Nigeria in March and November 2019.
Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator condemned the developments.
“The consistent attacks on journalists covering elections in Nigeria amount to direct attacks on democracy in the country. Freedom of the press plays a critical role for free and fair elections and should be treated as such by citizens and authorities alike.
“Those who attacked journalists Samson Adenekan and Offem Nathaniel Ubanga during the elections in Edo state must be held accountable as a step toward ensuring the media can work safely to keep the public informed about their government and how it is chosen.”
CPJ called Yekini Nabena, a spokesperson for the APC but she declined to comment on the attacks.