Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned a January 6, 2021 attack on three photojournalists by officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Department of State Service (DSS) and called on the Federal Government to launch an independent investigation into the matter and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and the photojournalists adequately compensated for the injuries suffered and equipment destroyed.
Officers of the NSCDC and DSS are reported to have beaten up the three photo-journalists on January 6 at the headquarters of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in Abuja where they were covering the registration of Nigerians for the National Identification Number (NIN) following the ultimatum given to all Nigerians by the Federal Government to link to their mobile phone numbers to their NINs.
The affected photojournalists are Mr. Olu Aremo of the Leadership newspaper; Mr. Olatunji Obasa of The Punch newspaper; and Mr. Mudashiru Atanda of The Sun newspaper. In addition to physically assaulting the photojournalists, the security operatives also deleted the pictures taken by Mr. Aremo.
In a statement issued in Lagos by MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, he said, “I wonder how covering an exercise ordered by the government could have become an offence that could provoke such an attack on media professionals carrying out their legitimate duties. The photojournalists have a duty and a right to cover the exercise to enable both the government and other citizens know what is going on and evaluate the success or otherwise of the exercise. The attack on innocent journalists carrying out their legitimate duties was unwarranted, and constituted an unconscionable disregard for the rule of law.”
According to Mr. Longe, “It is the responsibility of security and law enforcement agencies to protect journalists to enable them to carry out their professional duties without let or hindrance. It is therefore incomprehensible and unacceptable for officials and agents of the same security and law enforcement agencies to assault the very journalists that they are supposed to protect, especially where they have committed no offence.”
He called on the Commandant of the NSCDC and the Director of DSS to carry out thorough and independent investigations into these attacks; ensure that the erring officers are prosecuted and pay the affected journalists adequate compensations for the injuries they suffered, the traumatic experiences to which they were subjected as well as for all the professional equipment of the photojournalists that were destroyed by the officers.