NIGERIA


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



JULY 1, 2003

George Osodi, The Associated Press
Funmi Komolafe, The Vanguard
Rotimi Ajayi, The Vanguard
ATTACKED

Osodi, a photographer for The Associated Press (AP), and Komolafe and Ajayi, reporters for the Lagos-based daily The Vanguard, were attacked by police while covering a demonstration in the capital, Abuja. The journalists were reporting on a general strike by workers who had gone to state administration buildings to protest the government's recent decision to raise the price of fuel by more than 50 percent.

According to Osodi, the journalists were in a group reporting on the action when police, armed with riot gear, charged at them and began to manhandle the reporters. When Osodi showed the police his press accreditation, they beat him with their fists and rifle butts, telling him it was in reprisal for the pictures journalists had taken.

According to the AP, police dragged Osodi away from the other reporters and beat him for several minutes. They then destroyed his camera and seized his other equipment. Before leaving, one of the officers told Osodi he was lucky they did not shoot him. The AP later filed a complaint with the Office of the President.


JULY 22, 2003

Ben Adaji, The News
IMPRISONED

Adaji, Taraba State correspondent for the Lagos-based weekly magazine The News, was arrested at the Government House, the executive office of the Taraba State government.

Adaji was among a number of journalists who had gone to the Government House to cover the state governor's meetings that day. According to Adaji, several police arrived at the house as the journalists were leaving the governor's office. Police Commissioner Nwachukwu Egbochukwu, who recognized Adaji, ordered his officers to arrest the journalist and take him to the police station, where he was detained for several hours.

Later in the day, officers took Adaji to court, where he was charged with defaming Egbochukwu in connection with a July 21 The News article that questioned Egbochukwu's support for Governor Jolly Nyame during the spring gubernatorial election campaign. Adaji was denied bail and was remanded to police custody after the court hearing.

According to journalists in Lagos, defamation is a civil offense under Nigerian law. Journalists said that the police chief was abusing his office by jailing Adaji in reprisal for the article. On July 24, Adaji was released on bail, but the case is still pending.


AUGUST 14, 2003

Haruna Acheneje, The Punch
HARASSED

The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly attempted to expel Acheneje from the state, which is located on the country's southern coast. Acheneje is a correspondent based in Uyo, Akwa Ibom's capital, for the national daily The Punch.

On August 11, The Punch ran an article by Acheneje titled "Lawmakers protest non-payment of allowances." The article was based on a series of interviews Acheneje conducted with House of Assembly members. The next day, Acheneje received a letter signed by the speaker of the Hhouse asking him to appear before that body on August 14, according to Acheneje. Acheneje told CPJ that he replied to the letter in writing, requesting that the House contact his main office in Lagos. On August 14, the House of Assembly passed a resolution to expel Acheneje from the state. The journalist told CPJ that he learned of the resolution when it was broadcast on state radio. According to Acheneje and his colleagues at The Punch, the newspaper's Lagos office received a letter on August 15 stating that the journalist had seven days to leave Akwa Ibom.

On August 21, three men arrived at The Punch's Uyo office demanding to speak to Acheneje, according to the journalist and his colleagues at the newspaper. Acheneje's colleagues later told him that they could see pistols protruding from the men's back pockets. Acheneje's assistant told the men that he was not there, and when the men left the office, Acheneje called the police. The police provided Acheneje with an armed guard to accompany him during the day and patrol his house at night.


AUGUST 16, 2003

Lawson Heyford, The Source
IMPRISONED, THREATENED

Three police officers arrested Heyford, a senior editor at The Source magazine, in the southern city of Port Harcourt, where the journalist is based. Heyford was held overnight in a prison cell in Port Harcourt and then transferred to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters in Lagos, where he was detained until August 26 and released without charge.

According to local journalists, Heyford's arrest stemmed from an August 13 article he had written for The Source about a dispute between competing chieftains in Ataba, a village in southern Nigeria where he is from. In the article, Heyford accused Emmanuel Njah, a local government official, of causing a riot in Ataba by inciting one side of the dispute against the other. Njah subsequently ordered Heyford's arrest, local journalists said.

Heyford told CPJ that after his release from detention, he received three threatening phone calls in which the caller ordered him to stop writing about the conflict in Ataba.


AUGUST 19, 2003

Emma Nwatu, Minaj Systems Television
ATTACKED, THREATENED
Michael Chika, Minaj Systems Television
HARASSED

A police superintendent ordered a group of young men to attack Nwatu, a reporter and editor for privately owned Minaj Systems Television (MST), in southeastern Nigeria's Anambra State. In early August, Nwatu had edited an MST report about a group of traffic-police officers led by superintendent Justina Achike who were allegedly extorting money from bus drivers, the journalist told CPJ. According to Nwatu, on August 12, a man entered the MST office in Anambra and confronted him, demanding that the station kill any story about Achike. The station ran the report anyway, broadcasting it on the radio on August 14 and on television on August 15.

On August 19, Nwatu was conducting interviews for a report on traffic conditions with MST cameraman Chika and reporter Cunde Chiazo when Achike approached the team and told them that, because of the MST report, she was going to kill Nwatu and his family, the reporter told CPJ. Then she ordered a group of young men to assault Nwatu. Two of the men seized Chika's camera and attacked Nwatu, beating him and severely injuring his jaw and neck.

The superintendent then took Nwatu to the police station, where he was held for several hours, the reporter said. The next day, the journalist went to the hospital, where he spent four days recuperating from his injuries. Nwatu told CPJ that he feared for his and his family's safety after the assault, and that he had filed a formal complaint with the Anambra police commissioner to try to protect himself against further attack.

NOVEMBER 24, 2003
Posted: January 29, 2004

Osa Director, Insider Weekly
Janet Mba-Afolabi, Insider Weekly
Chuks Onwudinjo, Insider Weekly
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Director, editor-in-chief of the Lagos-based Insider Weekly magazine, and Mba-Afolabi and Onwudinjo, executive directors of the publication, were arrested by police and taken to a police station in Lagos.

The editors' arrests stemmed from an article that in the November 24 edition of the magazine alleging that top officials, including Vice President Atiku Abubakar and National Security Advisor Muhammed Gusau, were involved with criminal syndicates that steal oil in the southern Niger Delta Region.

All three were held until November 26, when they were brought before a court and charged with defamation and sedition. Local journalists were shocked at the sedition charge because they believed that Nigeria's sedition law, passed by the British colonial administration, had been expunged after independence in 1960. The journalists' lawyer, Festus Keyamo, told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks news service that the courts had ruled that the sedition law is inconsistent with constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of expression. The journalists, who were released on bail, are being charged anyway. Their case is pending.