Authorities in Nigeria must immediately investigate Sunday’s attack on a journalist by a state governor’s security operatives and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Three plainclothes operatives of the State Security Service beat to unconsciousness Kazeem Ibrahym, a journalist with The Nation newspaper, at the Akwa Ibom State Government House in the capital Uyo, when he tried to cover Gov. Godswill Akpabio‘s birthday celebration, according to local journalists and news reports. Ibrahym and other journalists were initially denied entry to the hall by security operatives until Anietie Ukpe, the governor’s chief press secretary, intervened, news reports said. Ibrahym told CPJ he was third in the line of journalists to enter when a security agent refused him entry with a push. His request to know why he was being refused despite identifying himself and having an invitation to the event prompted other security agents to gang up and beat him, he said.
“They came from my back, held my neck, pulled me to the ground and continued beating me. I lost consciousness at that point,” Ibrahym told CPJ. Ibrahym regained consciousness after a few minutes; he sustained bruises on his back, according to local journalists. The Nation reported that one of Ibrahym’s assailants also threatened Ukpe, the governor’s press secretary, when he tried to intervene.
“We are deeply disturbed by the savage assault on Kazeem Ibrahym and call on the State Security Service to investigate and bring to account everyone responsible,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita in New York. “Journalists must be allowed to cover public events without fear for their safety.”
Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman for the State Security Service, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s calls and a text seeking comment. Joe Effiong, the Akwa Ibom State chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, told CPJ the union is meeting on what action it will take.
Journalists have suffered a series of attacks in the state, according to news reports. On June 9, during local elections, a senior police officer ordered his men to beat a correspondent for the News Agency of Nigeria and the editor of News Net, an Akwa Ibom-based tabloid, who both lost their equipment, according to news reports. On March 8, a journalist with a local tabloid was assaulted by police officers during a protest by community youth against a Chinese-managed oil company, Sahara Reporters reported. A journalist with The Punch newspaper was assaulted and sent out of the state’s High Court at an event marking Nigeria’s new legal year in September, according to state-run News Agency of Nigeria.