IPI Demands Probe of Death of Three Nigerian Journalists

  •   Saraki urges media to fight against oppression

By Deji Elumoye and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The International Press Institute (IPI) General Assembly at the weekend urged the Nigerian Government to expedite investigations and bring to justice, the killers of three Nigerian journalists, who died in 2017.

This is coming as the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has challenged the media to be open and strive to ensure that the powerful does not oppress the weak.

IPI’s request was among the four resolutions unanimously passed by the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists at the end of the 67th IPI World Congress in Abuja.

They also urged action on press freedom issues in Africa and Turkey.

The three slain journalists were Famous Giobaro of Bayelsa State-owned radio station—Glory FM 97.1; Lawrence Okojie of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Benin and Ikechukwu Onubogu of Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS).

Their deaths are still under investigation by the authorities.

Giobaro was shot dead on April 16, 2017, while Okojie was shot dead while returning from work on July 8, 2017.

Onubogu, a camera man, was found dead four days after he was reported missing on November 12, 2017.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had denied report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPI) about the plight of another journalist, Clement Abiri, who has been in detention for several weeks.

The minister alleged that Abiri, purportedly being referred to by CPI, was not a journalist, but a pipeline vandal.

IPI said it was disturbed by the killing of several journalists in Africa in apparent retaliation for their work in recent years

The body also urged African Governments to ensure that those who commit crimes against journalists do not enjoy impunity and ensure that courts and law enforcement authorities are capable of ensuring justice.

In addition, the General Assembly urged governments in Africa as well as the African Union (AU) to take robust action to ensure the protection of journalists in conflict zones and to repeal laws that are being used to prosecute them.

Five journalists have been killed in Somalia since 2016 as a result of the ongoing conflict there, according to IPI’s Death Watch.

The body called on African governments to release all journalists imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and drop all charges against them and end impunity for crimes committed against journalists.

It also called for guarantee for press freedom, independent journalism, respect for the rule of law, provision of safety training to journalists and arrangement for health and life insurance to journalists at discounted rates.

IPI expressed concern that the space for press freedom is fast shrinking on the continent, with governments and politicians using archaic laws as well as new measures to silence critical voices and independent media.

It cited emerging threats to press freedom in Africa and other parts of the world to include attempts by governments and politicians to harass journalists by smearing critical coverage as “fake news” and new laws related to digital communication, which would effectively silence government critics.

The Congress elected Markus Spillmann of Switzeland’s  Neue Zurcher Zeitung as the 34th Chair of IPI Executive       Board to replace John Yearwood, who served two terms.

Speaking at the IPI dinner, Saraki stressed that the press now more than ever should strive to defend freedom globally.

He opined that the media must be a defender of values by standing for rights and for openness.

While submitting that the media cannot allow itself to be complicit when false claims that could heat up the polity or set different groups against each other are made, Saraki added that it behooves on the media to expose the false claims by availing the public with verifiable facts.

Saraki further identified some of the challenges facing the media to include the rise of social media and the internet, as well as the mode of relaying news to an audience whose preference for receiving news is also changing by the day.

Describing the media as a galvanising artery that holds the world together, the Senate president expressed appreciation to the media for its steadfastness and courage, notwithstanding the deprivation experienced by the journalist in his pursuit of people’s right to know.

Saraki also called on the media to be objective in its reportage of the February 2019 general elections in the country.

“As Nigeria heads into the 2019 election year, we plead with the press-national and international – to maintain objectivity at all times in their reporting. I say this because there can be no democracy without credible elections and if we get the election right, then we have a better chance of making a stronger society,” he said.

The Senate president also expressed the commitment of the National Assembly towards upholding press freedom, adding that “the 8th National Assembly will continue to support and ensure a free and vibrant press capable of playing its part in strengthening democratic norms”.