Media Rights Agenda (MRA) condemned Wednesday’s brutal assault on several journalists by armed hoodlums in Opu Nembe community in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State

By Yusuf Damina

The Nigeria Police Force has been urged to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice on the brutal incident that happen in Opu, Nembe Community in Nambe local government area of Bayelsa state.

On Wednesday, August 16, 2023, six journalists representing different media outlets who were covering a violent conflict that erupted in the Opu Nembe community, were brutally attacked by hoodlums armed with various weapons, who illegally confiscated their television cameras and other equipment.

Among those assaulted were Mr. Joseph Kunde of the privately owned television station, TVC News, and his cameraman, Mr. Bina Miebi; Mr. Awe Baratuapere of the Federal Government-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and his cameraman, Mr. Ayebakuro Egein; Mrs. Iniyekenime Doctor Bruce of Daar Communications Limited, owners of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower radio; and Mr. Femi Folaranmi of The Sun Publishing Limited.

In a statement issued in Lagos by Mr. John Gbadamosi, its Programme Officer, MRA expressed grave concerns about the inability of the Police to protect journalists from these sorts of violations of their freedom, describing the situation as “a sad dereliction of the Government’s obligation under international human rights law to prevent such attacks against journalists and generally ensure their safety.”

Mr. Gbadamosi said: “Having failed to take effective measures to prevent this attack on the affected journalists, we now call on the Government and the appropriate law enforcement authorities, particularly the Police, to live up to their obligation to diligently and speedily investigate the assault on the journalists and ensure that the perpetrators are identified and punished in accordance with the Law. The Government should not continue to condone, or enable by its silence and inaction a culture of impunity for attacks against journalists.”

He urged the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, to order the Bayelsa State Police Command to immediately initiate a transparent and thorough investigation into the incident while also directing sensitization and enlightenment activities across the entire Police force in Nigeria to enable officers and men of the agency to have a better appreciation of the role as well as the rights of the media and journalists in a democracy.

Stressing that journalists must be able to fulfill their professional duties of reporting on matters of public interest without fear of violence or other forms of attacks against them, he noted that the “rising frequency of physical violence being visited on journalists on a regular basis has become deeply concerning and alarming”.

According to Mr. Gbadamosi, “This disturbing trend not only jeopardizes the safety and well-being of journalists but also poses a significant threat to the fundamental principles of freedom of the press and the health of our democracy as the existence of media freedom in law and in practice is a critical component of any functioning democracy.”

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