- According to media watchdog groups, 53 press freedom violations have been registered in Nigeria only since the start of this year. As the State Security Service (SSS) recently raided two opposition weekly newspapers, Nigerian journalists again are taught to fear the SSS, which was responsible for heavy-handed attacks on the press during the military dictatorship.
According to the Paris-based media freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), the harassment of Nigeria's independent press is currently strongly enhancing. At an increasingly higher frequency, the group registers violations of basic press freedoms in Nigeria.
RSF in a statement today noted that Nigeria's journalists paid heavily during the Sani Abacha dictatorship. "When civilian rule was restored in 1999, we thought they would at last be able to abandon 'guerrilla journalism' and that fear of the SSS would be a thing of the past, but after recent developments we are inclined to change our minds."
Repeated arrests, beatings and raids were now creating "a disturbing record," the group said. RSF had registered 53 press freedom violations since the start of the year. Seven journalists have been detained, 15 have been physically attacked by members of the police forces or other state forces and at least three have been publicly threatened, in one case by a governor.
Further, according to RSF statistics, "more than 20 other journalists have been placed under surveillance, expelled, subjected to extortion, summoned to a police station, heavily fined, suspended from work, or subjected to other forms of harassment."
Since the start of September alone, the SSS has raided two so-called "opposition" weekly newspapers, 'The Insider Weekly' and the 'Global Star'. In each case, the agents of this federal security service had "acted in a heavy-handed manner," RSF said, "seizing equipment and arresting Nigerian citizens without good reason."
The staff of the Lagos-based 'Insider Weekly' newspaper has been in hiding ever since SSS agents raided their headquarters on 4 September, closed it down and confiscated its equipment for publishing "discourteous articles about the president and commander-in-chief, and other government personalities."
According to RSF, current development were in stark contrast to pro-democracy statements by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo - who currently also heads the African Union and the Commonwealth. President Obasanjo also plays a leading role in Nepad, which holds that democracy - among other goods - is to secure investments in Africa.
President Obasanjo had lost "no opportunity to declare his support for democracy, so he should put an end to the harassment to which so many journalists are subjected and restore order to the federal security services responsible for mistreating them," RSF said. "He would thereby prove that Nigeria has emerged from the dark years of political persecution."
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