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Paris, France – The body of radio reporter Nansok Silas, who worked for Highland FM, was found on 19 January in a stream under a bridge on the Zaramagada-Rayfield road, 200 metres from a military checkpoint, in Jos, northeast of Abuja. Nothing of value was taken from him and colleagues suspect he was the victim of a targeted murder, but the cause of death and possible motive are still unknown.
Originally from the Langtang North area in Plateau state, he had worked for Highland FM for three years and hosted a programme called āHighland Profileā. He had not received any threats. Reporters Without Borders has called on the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and to do their utmost to shed light on his death, and to consider the possibility that it was linked to his work.
On 3 January, the Kano office of the Daily Trust was invaded by vandals who tried to smash up the premises and assault staff. Only one person involved in the failed attempt was arrested. He was charged with criminal conspiracy, assault, criminal trespass and mischief by fire.
Obstructing access to information and controlling the state’s image
There was glaring evidence during the first quarter of 2012 of the Nigerian authorities’ desire to control the country’s image and monitor what the media publish or broadcast.
The government demonstrated its resolve to hide the real extent of the population’s demonstrations of dissatisfaction, as well as the threat presented by Boko Haram.
It seems as if the obstruction of access to information, seizures of newspaper print runs and equipment, as well as threats and lawsuits against journalists are aimed at allowing the government to play down its own weakness and the difficulties faced by the country,
On 13 March, police and troops manhandled several journalists covering a visit to Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, by the first lady, Patience Jonathan. Dare Fasuba, of The Vanguard, Akinwale Aboluade of The Punch, Gbenro Adesina of The News/PM NEWS, and Sola Adeyemo of Compass Newspapers were prevented from entering Lekan Salami Stadium, while others such as Bisi Oladele of The Nation were beaten when they tried to exercise their right to cover the event.
A few days earlier, Jude Obiemenyego, a journalist with the newspaper Zion Nationale, was arrested by an officer of the State Security Service, for having exposed a case of corruption involving the ex-wife of the former government of Delta State. He was arrested in the woman’s office and threatened with a gun before being taken to police headquarters where he was held for several days. Since his release, he has received telephone death threats from unidentified callers.
On 7 March, an unidentified journalist was assaulted by police officers deployed to break up protests by youths at the Stubb Creek oilfield in the southern state of Akwa Ibom. The journalist fled to escape further violence.
On 23 February, Misbahu Bashir, a reporter for the Daily Trust, was refused access to the headquarters of the Aguryi Ironsi brigade in Abuja and was forced to stay in his car for three hours by soldiers outside the building. The journalist was seeking information about the arrest by brigade troops of 99 passengers travelling in a truck that had been stopped on the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
He said he was detained after asking to see the brigade commander instead of the public relations officer, a captain, with whom he had originally requested a meeting.
The reporter was allowed to leave after he was made to write down his name, address and vehicle registration number.
On 18 February, Iyatse Joshua, of the radio station City FM, was arrested by Lagos police while he was covering a procession organized by human rights activists and organizations in remembrance of those killed by security forces a during the week-long nationwide strike and mass protest against the abolition in January of fuel subsidies. He and a number of activists were taken to the offices of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. All were released several hours later on the orders of the chief of police.
On 14 February, Suleiman Isah, a reporter with the Daily Champion, was barred from entering the Niger State government headquarters by members of the State Security Service, despite having appropriate accreditation. The security officers threatened him before he was allowed to leave the premises.
Earlier, a Voice of America reporter was manhandled by security men in similar circumstances outside the Justice Idris Legbo Conference Centre, a few metres from the government building.
On 13 February, journalists from The Nation, ThisDay, The Punch, The Guardian and Nigerian Tribune were forced to leave by soldiers posted at the entrance to a hospital next door to the government headquarters in the northern city of Kaduna. They were reporting on an attack by some of the governor’s guards on an information ministry official, whom they mistook for a member of Boko Haram.