At least 11 journalists, bloggers and media support staff are currently languishing in jail in Nigeria, as the government of Muhammadu Buhari steps up efforts to silence criticism and neutralise freedom of expression.
Many observers continue to deplore the autocratic attitude of Buhari, a former general and dictator, who they believe has not been converted sincerely into politics to become a true democrat.
This wave of mass arrests has irked the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which has called on Nigerian authorities to stop harassing the media and immediately release the journalists.
Ten journalists and media workers from Watchdog Media were arrested on September 21 around 1.45am by soldiers and officers of State Security Service, the country’s special police, CPJ said, adding that many were only wearing underwears.
The online publication is privately owned and is based in Benin City (Edo State).
Watchdog Media editor Taiye Garrick told CPJ that witnesses said the crew were beaten with barbed wire and had cold water poured on their bodies before they were arrested.
Recession-hit Nigeria, which was under military rule for about three decades, is believed to have a poor record of human rights.
“The impunity with which Nigerian security forces have recently attacked the press is reminiscent of Nigeria’s darkest days of military rule,” CPJ West Africa representative Peter Nkanga said in a statement published on the media watchdog’s website on Thursday.
“We call on President Buhari’s administration to reverse this alarming slide and let journalists do their jobs without fear of reprisal.”
Other journalists arrested include Jamil Mabai, Cliqq magazine publisher and Katsina Reporters columnist, who reportedly criticised Aminu Masari, Katsina State Governor on social media.
The governor donated over 3 000 coffins to mosques while his administration has been unable to pay civil servants’ salaries, CPJ said.
Photo: Benin City, the capital of Edo State. credit: Afktravel.com