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Global Rights Calls For Sack of Officers Indicted In Segun Olatunji’s Torture

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The Global Rights, executive director, Abiodun Baiyewu, has called for the immediate dismissal of officers indicted, for the arbitrary arrest and torture of Segun Olatunji, an editor with the FirstNews Newspaper recently.

BusinessDay recalls Segun Olatunji, was unlawfully taken from his home in Lagos, by a mob of 10 officers of the Nigerian military with no pre-information of the reason for his arrest before his abduction. He was eventually released following a sustained media campaign spanning nearly 2 weeks without being charged with any crime.

Baiyewu while calling for a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Segun Olatunji’s ordeal, demanded an official apology from the Nigerian military’s top brass to Olatunji, adding that the Military must also take steps to compensate him for the ordeal he unlawfully suffered at the hands of its personnel.

Abiodun Baiyewu who called for an immediate cessation of the campaign of harassment and intimidation by the Nigerian Police Force targeting the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) and Mr. Fisayo Shoyombo, also called for the immediate release of all journalists and members of the press who are being unlawfully detained by Nigerian law enforcement and security agencies.

In a statement titled ‘Sounding the Alarm: Escalating Attacks on Media by Nigerian Security Personnel the Global Rights community stated that “The arrest, detention, intimidation, and harassment of journalists, simply because they publish stories that run counter to the narratives of the government is unabashedly undemocratic.

Worse still, it is also unconstitutional. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unambiguously charges the press with the responsibility of holding the government accountable to the people. The drafters of the Constitution appreciated the fact, that Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy could be undermined if the press was stifled by autocratic civilian rulers.

Abiodun also called for an amendment to the Cybercrimes Act 2015, stating that the Act contains many provisions that could be easily subject to arbitrary interpretations, making it the perfect tool to be unfairly wielded to target the media.

Baiyewu said “We consider it pertinent to sound the alarm on these incidents while informing the powers that be, that human rights actors and civic space defenders are taking stock of President Tinubu’s administration’s approach towards protecting media rights.

Noting that Nigeria’s history is replete with instances in which powerful individuals in government had gone to great lengths to silence members of the press who have criticized them, she stated instances of the atrocious assassinations of Dele Giwa and Chief Alex Ibru, which remain unsolved to date, during the military era. Since the nation’s return to civilian rule, Nigerian government officials have continued the trend of shutting down dissenting opinions and journalists who seek to hold them accountable.

Recently, state agents disappeared journalists like Mr. Agba Jalingo and Mr. Jones Abiri for extended periods. Idris Abubakar, popularly known as Dadiyata disappeared from his home in Kaduna over 4 years ago.

She stated that the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) revealed a concerning trend of 53 incidents of attacks on journalists in 2022. In Shege, a Global Rights scorecard report grading the impact of the Buhari administration on Nigeria’s civic space, we detail a plethora of incidents in which the instrumentality of the Nigerian State was targeted at journalists and the media by the Buhari administration.

It is apparent that officials in this government fundamentally misunderstand the role of the media in a democracy and are intent on towing the path of the previous administration in constricting the civic space. The function of the press is not to rubber stamp or applaud every governmental action or policy, no matter how well-intentioned they might seem.

The Fourth Estate must scrutinize the policies and actions of the government, holding the powerful to account while simultaneously informing the citizenry. The proper response of a responsible government to negative stories about it and its officials should be to investigate whether the stories are true while taking positive steps to address them.

She urged that there is still a lot of time for the President Tinubu administration to position itself as a champion of the protection of the rights of the Nigerian people.  “Key among those rights is the right to freedom of the press”

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