Journalists assaulted, chased covering protest in Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria, April 16, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks on journalists covering a government workers’ strike in Nigeria and calls on Nigerian authorities to ensure police launch a thorough and efficient investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

About a dozen journalists were at the government secretariat in the southern state of Osun on Tuesday to cover a three-day strike called by one branch of the Trade Union Congress in Osun State, a national union that advocates for workers’ rights, according to local journalists and news reports. The branch had ordered government workers to stay at home starting Tuesday to protest unpaid benefits, while another branch of the union told the workers to disregard the strike.

Bosede Sodiq, correspondent for the independent Channels TV in Osun State, told CPJ that union members arrived at the secretariat in a TUC-branded bus and threw bottles at her and at least 10 other journalists from private and government-owned radio and TV stations who were there to cover the strike.

One journalist was injured in the attack. Oloyede Oyegbenle, a cameraman with the Channels TV, was attacked by union members wielding clubs who also seized his camera, news reports said. Oyegbenle sought treatment at a hospital for injuries sustained to his arm and body, the reports said. No one else was injured. Sodiq told CPJ that the assault and seizure of the camera were reported to the police.

In a phone conversation with CPJ, Francis Adetunji, chairman of the union branch that allegedly attacked the journalists, said his members attacked the journalists in error and that he was prepared to repair the damaged camera and pay for Oyegbenle’s medical treatment.

According to Sodiq and news reports, police were present at the scene but did not intervene in the attacks. Folasade Odoro, police spokeswoman for Osun state, did not immediately return CPJ’s call for comment.

“The gravity of the attack on these journalists is made worse by the police’s apparent lack of response to and inaction over such violence against the press,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative. “We call on Nigerian authorities to ensure that police thoroughly investigate the attack, arrest the assailants, and bring them to justice.”

Opeyemi Olawale, a journalist with Adaba FM, told CPJ that Adetunji warned Sodiq that her complaints would yield no result. “He told her to do her worst, that she can only write, nothing more,” Olawale told CPJ.

Adetunji denied threatening Sodiq to CPJ.

Police said they arrested two individuals in connection with the incident and that they had recovered Oyegbenle’s camera, according to news reports. But Sodiq told CPJ that the two suspects in custody were not involved in the attack on Oyegbenle and had been at the secretariat before the bus arrived with the other union members.

Sodiq told CPJ that she and Oyegbenle went to the Osun state police station and identified Oyegbenle’s camera, but the recording tape was missing. Sodiq said police still had the camera. She told CPJ that she called on the police to produce the union members who had given the camera to the police. She said police have not yet done so.

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