Amnesty International says no fewer than 19 journalists and media practitioners have suffered an attack in Nigeria between January and September 2019.
The human rights organization disclosed this in its report entitled, ‘Endangered Voices: Attack On Freedom Of Expression In Nigeria’.
In the 42-page document launched in Abuja on Monday, the group noted that the figure was the highest recorded in the country since 2015.
One of the cases highlighted in the report is that of Jones Abiri, a journalist based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, who was arrested and detained for more than two years without trial for publishing a story about oil blocks and politics in Nigeria.
Another incident is that of Ahmed Salkida who was declared wanted by the Nigerian government for publishing an article and proof of life video of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, among other cases.
Amnesty decried that the civic space has continued to shrink, stressing that clear examples of such were the attacks on freedom of information and expression as well as media freedom.
“Since 2015, attacks on journalists and media activists have continued unabated. Amnesty International has been closely monitoring these attacks and now reports on how they have contributed to the violation of other human rights in Nigeria.
“These attacks take the form of verbal and physical assault, as well as indiscriminate arrest and detention by Nigerian authorities,” Amnesty said in the executive summary page of the report.
It accused the security forces of perpetrating most of the violations, adding that they occur when journalists and media practitioners seek access to information, share information or express critical views that could drive public opinion.
The group was worried that dissenting views expressed by media practitioners were often criminalised, particularly when they revolve around sensitive issues.
It also noted that there was stifling of freedom of expression in circumstances where journalists were pressured to disclose their sources of information.
“Those who spoke to Amnesty International confirmed that they came under intense pressure from Nigeria’s security officials to reveal their sources of information, particularly when they published stories that focused on corruption, elections, and armed conflict.
“Some of the journalists were kept under surveillance, while others received death threats via telephone calls from unidentified people.
“Many journalists also came under attack while reporting the 2019 General Elections across Nigeria,” the report revealed.
According to the group, the failure of the Nigerian government to investigate cases of indiscriminate arrest, detention, and prosecution of journalists and media practitioners ensures that perpetrators are not held to account for human rights violations.
It said while many of the victims faced indiscriminate charges such as ‘defamation’ and ‘terrorism’, others had charges such as ‘kidnapping’, criminal trespass and theft of state documents brought against them.
Amnesty accused the government at both federal and state levels of violating and repressing the human rights of bloggers, journalists, broadcasters and social media users.
It stated that the Nigerian authorities have legally binding obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information, media freedom and personal liberty in the country.
The group, therefore, asked the government to immediately end violations and abuses of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information, as well as media freedom and personal liberty.
It recommended that journalists, bloggers, and media activists must have access to information and be able to do their job freely without any fear of reprisal.
Amnesty also called for thorough and effective investigations into allegations of attacks against victims and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible through fair trials.
Among other demands, it called on the government to issue clear directives to the police, military, and other security agencies to refrain from applying existing laws in a manner that restricts or interferes with rights to freedom of expression.