Nigerian journalists barred, threatened for covering trial

Armed state security agents on October 24, 2013, in the commercial capital, Lagos, barred journalists from covering the arraignment of 17 suspected members of the Boko Haram militant group on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, and being members of a proscribed organization, according to news reports.

A security operative told journalists before the start of proceedings that the press had been barred from covering the case and said the order had come from the office of the president, according to news reports. The agent asked every person, except lawyers, to leave the courtroom, the reports said. The president’s office has not commented on the case.

Another operative threatened journalists who stood outside the courtroom, ThisDay reported. “I give you five minutes to leave this place, or you will be handcuffed.”

In a previous terrorism-related case in February 2013, the Nigerian government applied to a court in the capital, Abuja, to bar journalists from covering the trial of a suspected bomber linked to the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram in April 2012, according to news reports.

The court rejected the government’s application, saying that the public had the right to know the details of the trial, Nnamdi Felix, a journalist with the daily P.M. News, told CPJ.