Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the Nigerian government at all levels as well as law enforcement and security agencies to take adequate measures to protect journalists and other media workers during this weekend’s off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States.
The group says journalists role in providing information about the electoral process is critical in ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.
In a statement issued in Lagos ahead of the elections, MRA urged journalists to be safety conscious and to utilize its existing hotline in reporting any threat or attack that they may experience throughout the process as well as any obstacle or challenge to their effective coverage of the elections.
MRA’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, noted in the statement that “Giving the pattern of heightened attacks on journalists and the media during previous elections, including the recent 2023 general elections, as well as the tense political climate in the three states in the lead up to the elections, it is imperative that measures are taken to ensure general security during the elections and provide adequate protection for journalists covering the elections.”
According to him, “Access to information enables citizens and other members of the public to have the information they need about political and electoral processes and therefore facilitates effective public participation in elections… It is therefore imperative that the safety and well-being of these interlocutors are assured and safeguarded as part of efforts to ensure the integrity of the elections.”
Mr. Adewale explained that MRA’s existing hotline, which was established ahead of the 2023 general elections early in the year, remains available to journalists who may face challenges, including harassment, intimidation, or violence, as they carry out their professional duties, adding that by reporting such incidents through the hotline, MRA would be able to document them and render a range of support services, including providing advice to journalists about their legal rights or available official mechanisms at domestic, regional or international levels for seeking redress; providing legal assistance; and, in appropriate cases, launching campaigns on their circumstances.
Lamenting the increasing incidents of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the off-cycle elections and as experienced earlier in the year ahead of the general elections, he stressed that, “a free and vibrant media is fundamental to a healthy democracy and that journalists must be able to carry out their duties without fear, coercion, or violence. MRA is ready to support them and ensure their safety during this critical period.”
Mr. Adewale said the hotline can be reached by journalists and other media workers seeking assistance through regular calls, WhatsApp calls, or texting and can be utilized by those who are under threat, attacked or harmed in the course or due to their work as media professionals.
He urged media organisations, civil society, and the general public to remain vigilant and report incidents of attacks or harassment against journalists, insisting that “by doing so, we can collectively promote a safe environment for journalists to carry out their duties and contribute to the democratic process.”