The Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the attacks on journalists that occurred during the just concluded Edo State elections.
The coalition notes that attacks on journalists have become a worrying trend, as well the complicity of security personnel in the total disregard for the safety and security of journalists.
According to a statement released by the body, "in several attacks during the just concluded elections which held on the 20th September 2020, journalists suffered physical attacks, detention, destruction of work tools and work products and denial of access."
The coalition also mentions specific attacks on journalists including the "brutal attack and detention of Samson Adeneye, a reporter with Premium Times and Nathaniel Offel of GeeTV by thugs for taking pictures and recording videos of the irregularities at the Ward 10 (Uzairue North East), Polling Unit 1 of Etsako West local government in Iyamho area of Uzairue."
"The actions of the journalists were in no way out of order and according to eyewitnesses, not only were security personnel present during these attacks, they did nothing to intervene or apprehend the attackers.
"Several other journalists and observers were denied access to their designated monitoring and observation centres. They are Samuel Ajala, Maxwell Osita, and Alamu Dolapo, among others, who were denied access to the collation centre at Okha Local government by security personnel with no clear reason but which represents a blatant abuse of power and a breach on the constitutional rights of the journalists from performing their statutory functions in an election setting."
The coalition pointed out that these violent actions are not only a hindrance to free and fair elections, the crux of a truly democratic state, but also a contravention of the Constitution of Nigeria which reposes the responsibility of information dissemination and education on journalists.
"The electoral process is incomplete without the crucial role that the media plays and this is highlighted in a 2019 address by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu displayed on the commission's website."
"The electoral act also emphasises the importance of the role and the protection of journalists during elections. It is, therefore, the duty, as a law enforcement agency, for the Nigerian police and other security personnel to protect journalists in the line of duty at all costs."
The media coalition asks that these violent incidents against journalists and election observers during the September 20 Edo elections should be investigated by the appropriate authorities with the culprits punished.
The coalition also called on the Inspector-General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the security and safety of journalists and election observers is given priority in future elections.
"All law enforcement agencies should be mandated to protect journalists and observers during elections to promote a free and fair election and further strengthen the country's democracy," the statement concluded.