Nigeria has witnessed a decline in press freedom since last year according to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the NGO, Reporters Without Borders. The country finished 122nd out of 180 countries in the world rankings.
Last year Nigeria was in the 116th position. President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, came to power in May 2015 and not shortly afterwards his administration suggested that action will be taken to curb Nigeria’s vibrant social media commentary.
Last week we reported the case of publisher Jones Abiri, who has been detained by Nigeria’s secret police since July last year.
Reporters Without Borders claimed in the 2017 press freedom index that there is a “climate of permanent violence” against journalists in Nigeria: “In Nigeria, it is nearly impossible to cover stories involving politics, terrorism, or financial embezzlement. Journalists are often threatened, subjected to physical violence, or denied access to information by government officials, police, and sometimes the public itself. The all-powerful regional governors are often their most determined persecutors. As Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria nonetheless has more than 100 independent media outlets. Online freedom was recently curbed by a cyber-crime law that punishes bloggers in an arbitrary manner.”
Before the Nigerian army raided the home of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of separatist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in Abia State in September this year, they first attacked the premises of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state capital, Umuahia, beating up journalists and destroying their equipment. It was thought that such violence was to deter reporting of their subsequent raid of Kanu’s compound that allegedly led to the deaths of up to 20 members of IPOB.