Nigerian soldiers stand guard in the central city of Jos. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)
Nigerian soldiers stand guard in the central city of Jos. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Nigeria’s military obstructs journalists covering unrest

New York, February 8, 2012–Nigeria’s military has harassed and obstructed journalists trying to report on unrest in recent days, according to local journalists and news reports.

On Sunday in the city of Jos, in Nigeria’s north central region, soldiers detained Jeremie Drieu, a videographer with French television station TF1, and local journalist Ahmad Salkida after they sought permission to film in the area, The Associated Press reported. The Nigerian federal government has been enforcing a state of emergency in Jos following bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians that have claimed the lives of at least two journalists, according to CPJ research.

Soldiers searched and interrogated the journalists and escorted them to their hotel, where they were forced to pack and leave Jos and Plateau state as night fell, the journalists told AP. “The official reason was security, which was absurd, because it is not safe to take the road at night,” Drieu told the AP.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, soldiers in the northern city of Kaduna seized the video cameras of Umar Uthman of the private station African Independent Television and another cameraman with the government-run Kaduna State Television, local media reported. Both journalists were covering the scene of a suicide bomb blast which had earlier rocked the city.

Isa Sa’idu, reporter for Daily Trust, told CPJ the soldiers ordered over 20 journalists to leave the area, preventing them from reporting the day’s events. “They drove all of us and asked us to move away from the vicinity and one of them threatened to shoot,” Sa’idu said.

“The Nigerian military has acted arbitrarily in blocking these journalists,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the military command to take decisive action to halt obstruction of the news media.”

In a phone interview with CPJ today, Ministry of Defense spokesman Col. Mohammed Yerima denied that the military is thwarting journalists from doing their job. “Is it not when a place is secured that you will allow them to go in and do their stories? I am sure it must have been when the tension was very high. But it would not have been deliberate to harm them or deprive them,” Yerima said.