Nigeria police block journalists from covering court proceedings

Armed police officers on August 12, 2015, barred several journalists from entering a courthouse in Lagos state, according to news reports.

The journalists were attempting to cover a court tribunal in which Tony Ashikodi, the candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, petitioned the court to contest the victory of Femi Gbajabiamila, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress party, to the House of Representatives at the February 28, 2015, parliamentary polls, according to news reports.

As journalists arrived at the court to cover the proceedings, they were turned away by police officers, Nurudeen Oyewole, a journalist with the independent Daily Trust, told CPJ. At the time Oyewole was there, there were more than seven journalists from various media outlets who were also turned away, he said.

Lanre Ogunlowo, an assistant police commissioner in Lagos state who was in charge of the officers outside the courthouse, said that he had received direct instructions from the police commissioner “not to allow anybody in, including journalists,” news reports said.

Oyewole said all the journalists complied with the order.

Local journalists told CPJ they had not been barred in the past from covering election tribunals. They said that since they did not cover the proceedings they were not aware of the next court date in the trial.

Patricia Idahosa-Amadin, the police spokesperson in Lagos State, told CPJ she wasn’t aware that police had barred journalists from covering the court proceedings and that she would investigate.

Akinwale Akintunde, chairman of the local journalists’ group, the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents in Ikeja, told CPJ that police denied the association’s members access into the courthouse to cover other trials and hearings.

Armed security agents in Nigeria have barred journalists from covering court proceedings in the past, according to CPJ research. On June 3, CPJ wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to fight impunity and address attacks on the press mostly committed by the police and security forces. Presidential media aides Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina said they received the letter, but CPJ has not yet received a response from the government.