As the world marked the 2019 press freedom day, a media resource centre in Nigeria has launched a new web tracking tool meant to collate attacks on journalists in the country, due to rising cases of abuses against the press.
Pressattack.ng was on Friday in Abuja unveiled by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ at a packed event celebrating the 2019 World Press Freedom day. Journalists, academics, lawyers, politicians and civil society groups were in attendance.
“Where crimes are not documented,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of Premium Times in an interview with News Central, “we provide excuses and grounds for their repetition and impunity.”
Olorunyomi said the platform is a collaborative effort with “about nine newsrooms” but anchored by his medium, an online paper, which is one of Nigeria’s foremost investigative journalism outfit.
“A whole lot appears to be happening against journalists that is not being captured. We wanted to create a mechanism that will make this possible.” Olorunyomi told News Central.
“What we have seen in the past ten years in Nigeria is a cause for alarm, a warning shot. Between 2010 and 2015, there were 43 attacks against journalists. Surprisingly, between 2015 and first quarter of this year, it has escalated to 165. If one were a doctor trying to capture the blood pressure of a patient, that is enough to quickly put this guy on an emergency.”
A tool to track abuses against journalists
The newspaper publisher identified government policies and indiscretion of officials including many constraining laws curtailing freedom of expression and association as stifling press freedom in Nigeria, thereby endangering the safety and welfare of journalists.
The journalists’ reporting platform is “created to track abuses on the rights of the press and to ensure that journalists whose rights have been abused will get a prompt response, once our team has been notified. To have a catalogue of submitted evidence for litigating cases of attacks.”
Asked if it could be replicated across Africa, the newspaper boss said the preview had already generated interest within the continent’s media ecosystem.
“Interestingly, when South Africans saw it, they said that they were going to send someone on internship to come and learn how we built this and how we are running it. It is still a work in progress for us too.”
Intellectuals debate press freedom
The 2019 press freedom day was another opportunity for Nigerian intellectuals, public officials and media experts to review some of the contentious issues depriving journalists of a free environment to practise their profession.
“Most press outlets are owned by businessmen and this threatens press freedom itself” said Lai Osho, a media professor and university don.
He said media investors work for interests that may not necessarily be in favour of public interest. “It is not a question of government, we need to look at the totality of the environment in which the media operates. The political economy within which the media operates matter alot.” Osho explained.
“Press freedom is about the diversity and the freedom of space within which the media operates. It is not just about the fight between media practitioners and the government,” Professor Osho said.
The failure of media platforms to regulate each other or allowing staff to unionise for effective supervision by a central organisation was identified by unionists as responsible for the easy clampdown of journalists by security services and government in Nigeria.
“When we are not ready to regulate ourselves, someone else will regulate us,“ said Shuaibu Liman, National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ. He assured that the union was often available to safeguard media rights but asked journalists to learn how to regulate themselves first through self-censorship.
Foremost African lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana said any public officer who feels offended by a publication must not use the machinery of state to kick against the reporters or publishers but should rather file a civil case in court without resorting to self-help or using state resources to intimidate others.
Falana said the use of security personnel by public officials to clampdown on those who criticise their actions in the course of their public duties is an abuse of trust and a violation of the Nigerian constitution.
“It is assuring that, amid the chaos of ideas in a highly competitive media environment that often prioritises the shallow and sensational over the vital and essential, one can see flashes of brilliance in our journalists — sometimes at considerable risks to themselves.”
-Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate said in his speech at the press day.
A jurist at the ECOWAS Court, Justice Dupe Atoki sought the decriminalisation of press laws in line with such countries as Ghana and Rwanda. She said Liberia has a pending bill that also aims to decriminalise libel acts. Panelists concluded that such anti-press laws across the continent are offshoots of colonialism.
The new press attacks reporting platform was endorsed by the panelists with many asking for more collaboration within the media to make it a success.
“We have two coalition platforms, one on investigative journalism which is called leaks.ng which brings to a total of nine newsrooms doing collaborative work on investigative journalism and we have around 11 working on the whistleblower protection mechanism. So, that’s the beginning of collaboration.” Olorunyomi said of plans to make the platform an industry success.
Malawi opposition leader takes MP seat despite challenging presidential vote
The 64-year-old leader of the Malawi Congress Party, MCP, was sworn in at the Parliament Building on Monday, together with 60 others
Malawi opposition chief, Lazarus Chakwera, has been sworn in as a member of the country’s parliament. The swearing in took place in the capital Lilongwe following the May 21 elections, local media in Malawi reported on Monday.
The 64-year-old leader of the Malawi Congress Party, MCP, was sworn in at the Parliament Building on Monday, together with 60 others, while other lawmakers were scheduled to be sworn in today.
According to The Nation newspaper, Chakwera “took his oath of allegiance and office … amid cheers from scores of party supporters who accompanied him.”
Chakwera’s party, the MCP is currently challenging the official result of the presidential vote which saw incumbent Peter Mutharika win a second and final term in office whiles Chakwera came second.
The Malawian electoral system make provision for persons contesting for presidency and vice presidency to simultaneously contest for parliamentary seats.
On the other hand, the incumbent vice president Saulos Chilima, who also contested in the presidential election, lost his parliamentary bid.
Morsi’s death: Timeline of events in Egypt since 2011 post-Mubarak era
Key dates in Egypt since the Tahrir Square-led revolt known which drove Hosni Mubarak out of power and events that led to Morsi’s death
Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was buried in Cairo Tuesday, a day after he died following his collapse in court and nearly six years since his ouster by now President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, leaving the country in a leadership crisis as the incumbent plans perpetuity.
Here are key dates in Egypt since the Tahrir Square-led revolt known as the ‘January 25 revolution’ which drove Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak from power in February 2011.
On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians, inspired by the Tunisian revolt that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, protest in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt demanding longtime dictator Mubarak’s overthrow.
On February 11, after days of vast protests centred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Mubarak’s newly appointed vice president Omar Suleiman announces that the president has resigned and the army is in charge.
A crackdown on the protests has left at least 850 dead.
Islamist parties win a majority of seats at parliamentary elections between November 2011 and January 2012.
On June 30, 2012, Morsi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, wins 51.7 percent of the vote to become Egypt’s first civilian, democratically elected president. He is also the first Islamist to head the country.
Egypt’s military rulers dissolve parliament in June. In August, Morsi dismisses military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and replaces him with Sisi, in a purge of top brass.
On July 3, 2013, following massive protests against Morsi’s divisive rule, the military led by Sisi overthrows Morsi and detains him. Morsi denounces a coup and calls on his supporters to defend his legitimacy.
On August 14, police disperse two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing about 700 people in clashes, according to official figures.
The government names the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation” in December.
Sisi is elected president with 96.9 percent of the vote in May 2014. His election comes after the approval of a new constitution bolstering the military’s powers.
In late 2015 a new parliament is elected, packed with Sisi supporters.
Sisi presides over a fierce clampdown. Hundreds of suspected Islamists are sentenced to death or life in prison in mass trials slammed by rights groups.
Secular opposition activists are also jailed.
Local and international rights groups accuse the regime of torture, forced disappearances, summary executions and repression of dissent.
The authorities deny the accusations, pointing to the need for stability and the fight against terrorism.
The country also witnesses deadly attacks, perpetrated mainly by the Islamic State group, which kills hundreds of police officers and soldiers in attacks centred on the Sinai peninsula.
On October 31, 2015, a Russian airliner carrying tourists from an Egyptian beach resort explodes after taking off, killing all 224 people on board. IS says it had planted a bomb on the plane.
On November 24, 2017, a suspected IS attack on a mosque in the Sinai leaves more than 300 dead.
More than 100 die in attacks on Christians, also claimed by the group.
In February 2018, the army launches a vast “anti-terrorist” operation.
Backing for Sisi
In February 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to Cairo for the first time in a decade and signs a deal to build the first Egyptian nuclear power plant.
In March 2015, the Obama administration lifts a partial freeze on military assistance decided after Morsi’s overthrow.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia visits Egypt in April 2016.
In April 2017, US President Donald Trump praises Sisi as the Egyptian leader visits Washington. Sisi is hosted at the White House for a second time in April 2019.
In October 2018, Sisi visits Paris, where he receives strong support from President Emmanuel Macron, who in turn visits Egypt the following January.
In March 2018, Sisi is re-elected with 97.08 percent of the vote. His only opponent is one of his supporters.
In April 2019, a controversial constitutional revision allowing the extension of Sisi’s presidency and strengthening his powers is approved by referendum.
On June 17, 2019, Morsi collapses in court during a retrial over charges of collaborating with foreign powers and militant groups.
He arrives at hospital dead, according to the attorney general’s office.
Rights groups say the Islamist was denied medical treatment in detention and demand an investigation.
UN wants government to end terrorist bombings in northeast Nigeria
“This is another terribly sad day for civilians in northeast Nigeria and for the humanitarians who are working to help them”
The United Nations has condemned the multiple suicide bombings in the northeast of the country that killed 30 people, including a community volunteer and injured 40 others.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon said in a statement in Abuja on Monday that the government must deploy more security solutions to end the spate of terrorist bombings in that part of the country.
“This is another terribly sad day for civilians in northeast Nigeria and for the humanitarians who are working to help them,” Kallon said in the statement.
“The UN and its partners deplore these abhorrent acts of violence and call for those responsible for these attacks to be swiftly brought to justice,” he said.
“Our deepest condolences go to the families of the victims in Konduga,” the UN chief said. “We hope all those injured can access the urgent medical attention they require and wish them a full recovery.”
Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38 kilometres (24 miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV on Sunday evening.
Although no group has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which is seeking to impose a hardline Islamic law in Nigeria’s mainly-Muslim north.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned “the heinous acts”, releasing a statement urging security agents to track down the perpetrators and devise strategies to prevent a recurrence.
Buhari, a 76-year-old retired general, who was re-elected in February, is facing mounting demands to improve security.
The last suicide attack was in April carried out by two female suicide bombers outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante.
Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.
The faction typically attacks soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women as bombers.
Boko Haram’s insurgency has claimed more than 27,000 lives and forced two million to flee their homes, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis.
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