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Web platform to track attacks on journalists launched in Nigeria

The journalists’ reporting platform is “created to track abuses on the rights of the press

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Web platform to track attacks on journalists launched in Nigeria | News Central TV
Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi unveiling Pressattack.ng, a new web tracking tool against attacks on journalists unveiled at the 2019 World Press Freedom day celebration in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Friday./Sumner Shagari Sambo

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

Web platform to track attacks on journalists launched in Nigeria | News Central TV
Panelists at the 2019 World Press Freedom day celebration in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Friday where a new web tracking tool against attacks on journalists was unveiled./Sumner Shagari Sambo

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.

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North Africa Politics

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will of Egyptians”

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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday flatly denied allegations of corruption made by an Egyptian businessman, assuring he was “honest and faithful” to his people and army.

Videos posted online from outside the country since early September accusing Sisi and Egypt’s military of graft have gone viral, sparking rare debate about the army’s growing economic empire. 

The man behind them, 45-year-old construction contractor Mohamed Aly, claims that authorities have misappropriated millions of Egyptian pounds in public funds. 

He also alleges the military owes him hundreds of millions of pounds for projects his company was commissioned to build, including palatial residences for Sisi.

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will (of Egyptians) and make them lose all hope and confidence”. 

Quoted by local TV, Sisi said he decided to speak out despite “calls from all state bodies” for him not to respond. 

“Your son is honest, faithful and loyal,” he added.

Aly — who says he has fled to Spain — has not provided evidence to back up his claims and the Egyptian armed forces declined an AFP request to comment.

In the footage, released in instalments, Aly mocks Sisi – a former army chief – and lambasts the military.

In the first video, posted on September 2, Aly blasted Sisi, without naming him, saying: “You say the Egyptian people are very poor and that we should tighten our belts.

“(But) you are throwing away billions and your men are wasting millions.”

In a speech on Egypt’s economy two years ago, Sisi had said “We (Egyptians) are very poor”.

The reality is different, according to Aly, who says that some of the projects the military asked him to build included a luxurious guest house for Sisi in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and a palace in Cairo.

“People must know how their money is being spent,” Aly says in one video.

For decades, the military has played a key but opaque economic role, producing everything from washing machines to pasta, alongside building roads and operating gas stations.

Since the arrival of Sisi, who toppled his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the army’s economic involvement has been more visible amid austerity measures and rising prices.

The army spokesman said recently on a popular TV show that the armed forces oversee rather than “manage” some 2,300 projects nationwide, employing five million civilians. 

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Politics

189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said

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189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
People disembark from a plane as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated from South Africa on Wednesday following a wave of xenophobic violence that swept through the country and sparked sharp exchanges between the two countries.

A flight carrying 189 Nigerians landed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, with some of those onboard punching the air and singing their national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.

“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” said Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years.

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.

189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
Air Peace flight attendants hold placards to denounce xenophobia as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said.

“We were expecting 317 but from the information we have 189 are on board,” said Nigeria’s minister for diaspora affairs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

“There was about a five-hour delay courtesy of the South African authorities who actually frustrated this return of Nigerians,” she said, blaming authorities in Johannesburg for failing to help Nigerians without travel documents.

READ: Nigeria plans to repatriate 600 citizens from South Africa

“There was a lot of frustration in getting them back home but we’re glad that they will be here,” she added.

Leading the returnees in singing the national anthem, Dabiri-Erewa promised the government would provide financial support.

Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa speaks after a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrived in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola/NurPhoto)

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners last week, including many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

At least 10 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed while more than 420 people were arrested.

READ: South Africa vows to tackle xenophobic attacks against foreigners

No Nigerian was killed but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading nations.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

READ: African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa

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Politics

Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari’s February election win

The opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court

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Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari's February election win

A Nigerian court on Wednesday upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s election victory earlier this year, dismissing a request by opposition parties to overturn the result over claims of voting irregularities.

Buhari, 76, won a second term with 56 per cent of the February poll, which was long-delayed.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came in second with 41 per cent, immediately called the result a “sham”. Opposition parties lodged a legal challenge against the result in March.

Abubakar, 72, said he had been cheated of the chance to lead Africa’s most populous state after a conspiracy between the electoral commission INEC and Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, on Wednesday, the presidential election tribunal found there was no evidence of the opposition’s claims.

“This petition is, hereby, dismissed in its entirety,” judge Mohammed Garba said on Wednesday.

The ruling was widely expected, with Buhari’s government taking office last month.

Buhari has insisted that the election was free and fair, claiming the vote was “another milestone in Nigeria’s democratic development”. 

In a press statement reacting to the verdict, the opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court.

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