Police officers stand in front of ThisDay newspaper in Abuja, which was bombed earlier today. (AFP/Pius Utomi Ekpei)
Police officers stand in front of ThisDay newspaper in Abuja, which was bombed earlier today. (AFP/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

CPJ condemns attacks on newspaper offices in Nigeria

New York, April 26, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns bombings today targeting two of the offices of ThisDay newspaper in Nigeria. At least nine people were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the attacks, for which the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility, according to news reports.

“We condemn these assaults against the offices of ThisDay, which represent an attack on the fundamental right of all citizens to news and information,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Nigerian authorities must do everything in their power to protect news outlets from this new threat.”

At about 11 a.m. today, a suicide bomber in a Jeep rammed into the offices of the daily ThisDay in Abuja, the capital, according to news reports. Segun Adeniyi, the chairman of the paper’s editorial board, said two security guards were among the five people killed, according to local news reports. Five media support workers also sustained injuries. The blast ripped through the building, causing substantial damage, reports said. Israel Iwegbu, the newspaper’s group executive director, told CPJ that the paper’s production had been halted as the blast had damaged the printing press.

At about the same time, in Kaduna, a city 90 miles north of Abuja, a man jumped out of a car and threw a bomb at a building housing the offices of three newspapers, ThisDay, The Sun and The Moment, Reuters reported. Four people were killed, none of whom were believed to be affiliated with ThisDay, local journalists said. The bomber’s car had been halted at the gate, news reports said. Marylyn Ogar, a spokesperson for Nigeria’s secret police, said that an individual had been apprehended in connection with the attack, news reports said.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility in an interview with Premium Times, a Nigerian online news website. Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for Boko Haram, which seeks the imposition of Shariah law over the predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, said that ThisDay was singled out because the paper’s “sins” were more grievous than those of other news outlets, the report said. ThisDay is considered to be largely supportive of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, according to local journalists. Qaqa also said that more media houses would be bombed, Premium Times reported.

In Abuja, a ThisDay staff member told CPJ that the suicide bomber had entered the office under the pretext of wanting to place an advertisement and that most journalists were out on assignment, which reduced the casualty level.

News reports stated the newspaper had received a warning in January after reporting on the activities of Boko Haram. The threat was reported to Nigerian security agencies while the paper applied new security drills for staff and visitors, including locking the front entrance to the premises and only allowing movement through the back gate from where the attack occurred, reports said.

In March, Boko Haram threatened attacks against three newspapers, Vanguard, Tribune and National Accord, accusing them of reporting favorable to the Nigerian government, according to news reports. The group has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings that have killed more than 1,000 people, including journalist Zakariya Isa, according to international news reports and CPJ research.