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Journalists face danger, death on line of duty

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  • 911 killed since 1992
  • 70 in 2011
  • Over 20 in 2012

By our reporters

On Thursday, media houses in the country including Thisday, Sun and Moment newspapers came under attack by the dreaded Boko Haram sect bringing again to the fore the dangers the media and practitioners face world-over in the discharge of their duty.
The dreaded sect bombed the Abuja and Kaduna offices of the media house killing scores and injuring many in a coordinated attacks that have attracted widespread reactions across the country.
The sect on its own part said in an interview published by Premuim Times, an online media that the attack on Thisday and other media houses was a warning on the media that it would no longer condone reports misrepresenting it in the press or blaming it for acts it knows nothing about.
According to that report, its spokesperson, Abdul Qaqa  went ahead to state that the sect was fed up with what it described as deliberate misinformation being peddled against it in the Nigerian and foreign media.
Eyewitnesses said an explosive laden vehicle broke through the back gate of the Thisday office in Abuja killing the gateman instantly before it rammed into the part of the building housing the generator and the press where the bomb was detonated.
Several persons  died when the bomb tore through the building dismembering those in the vicinity as shredded human parts littered the area. 
This was however, the first attack by the Boko Haram sect on a media house in the country.
All over the world journalists have fallen victims of attacks which saw many of them either killed or maimed by those who for one reason or the other were angered by reports carried by the media.
Since 1992 statistics have it that over 911 journalists have been killed across the world while more than 1,000 have been brutalized according to report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). According to RSF, in 2011 alone, more than 70 journalists were felled while the figure of those killed in 2012 has risen to over 20.
RSF said currently, many journalists are languishing in secret prisons in many parts of the world especially in China, Iran and Eritrea.
Also report by Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), listed the 20 deadliest countries for journalists to include Iraq which has so far recorded 151 cases, Philippines, 72; Algeria, 60; Russia, 53; Colombia, 43;Pakistan, 42; Somalia, 40; India, 28; Mexico, 27; Afghanistan, 24; Brazil, 21, Turkey, 20; Bosnia,19; Sri Lanka,19; Rwanda, 17; Tajikistan, 17; Sierra Leone, 16; Bangladesh, 12; Israel and Occupied Paletinian Territory, 10 and Nigeria, 10.
Spread through beats covered by the victims, CPJ said those on politics beat rank highest accounting for 40 percent of the attacks and deaths, war followed with 34 percent followed by corruption which accounted for 21 percent among others.
Also the CPJ report showed that the print media have been worse hit, accounting to 55 percent of the attacks while television and radio account for 28 percent and 20 percent respectively. 70 percent of those killed were murdered, 18 percent died in cross fire while 12 percent died in dangerous assignments.
In Nigeria, apart from attacks by the Boko Haram sect, which has led to the death of a number of journalists in the country, media men have also been felled and maimed by other elements including suspected political forces, who begrudge them for the stories which they consider to be against their interest.
However, the recent attacks has also brought to the fore a lot of issues associated with the job especially those of security and lack on insurance cover.
Beginning from the gruesome murder of founder of Newswatch Magazine, Dele Giwa in 1986 through a parcel  by persons yet to be identified for over two decades, Nigerian media practitioners have continued to be brutalised and killed.
While Dele Giwa’s killing has remained a mystery, the killing of another journalist, Bagauda Kaltho, a reporter of The News Magazine during the military regime in 1996, was more mysterious. The death of Kaltho, who police claimed at that time was killed by a bomb he was trying to detonate in a hotel in Kano has remained unresolved even as the body was not released to the family.
During that period, many journalists were brutalised and incarcerated including those in the stable of TSM, Tell and The News Magazines, who were worse hit by the onslaught. Some of them include now Senator Chris Anyanwu, who was then the publisher of the TSM Magazine and Senator Femi Ojudu, who was Managing Editor of The News.
Anyanwu had narrated that sacked Police top brass Zakari Biu physically assaulted her during which she said she practically got her eyes impaired. Anyanwu and others were branded terrorists and hounded into jail.
Also Senator Ojudu narrated that the same Biu had in an occasion put a gun to his head threatening to blast his brains off.
Other Nigerian journalists who have been felled include, Guardian Newspapers’ Bayo Ohu, who was killed in September, 2009, African Independent Television’s Efenji Efenji, who was stabbed to death in February, 2010; the Nation Newspapers’ Edo Sule Ugbagwu, who was killed in April 2010, Zakariya Isa of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) who was killed by gunmen in Maduguri in Borno state in October, 2011; Nansok Sallah, of Plateau state owned Highland FM, in January 2012, Eneche Okogwu of the Channels TV, who was felled by gunmen in Kano also in January, 2012.
These are in addition to two Nigerian journalists Tayo Awotunsin and Krees Imobibie killed by Liberian warlord, Charles Taylor in 1990
In the case of Ohu, reports have it that he was killed by  gunmen  who stormed his No 9, Oyeniyi Street, Odukoya estate residence at the about 7.00 a.m. and forced their way into his apartment. They were said to have demanded for cash and other valuables which the journalist readily obliged.
After collecting the cash he had, they picked his lap-top before releasing some bullets into his stomach. He was said to had slumped and died almost immediately.
However, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer at the time, Mr. Frank Mba, who confirmed the incident noted that it might be a case of assassination. Mba said the police had recovered the vehicle, an unmarked Toyota Camry used for the attack and assuring that those behind the act would be apprehended.
On that of Efenji, reports have it that he was stabbed to death while celebrating the Valentine with his wife and son at Oakland Garden, Karu, a suburb in Abuja. According to an eyewitness, a fight ensued when the late radio presenter of Political Platform on Ray Power 100.5 Fm objected to an offer from a four-man gang to dance with his wife.
The deceased’s refusal to allow one of the suspects, Augustine Ogbonna (22) to dance with his wife, led to a fight in which he was stabbed repeatedly by the gang.
He had reportedly told them that since she was married, it was not morally right for her to dance with them. The gang then proceeded to break bottles and started stabbing him while he ran for safety. Amid the scuffle, it was said that the journalist’s elder brother, Mr. Agwanyan Efenji, took his wife and son as well as those of Mr. Eneji Innocent, a friend of the former AIT correspondent, to safety.
“It was when about 16 other hoodlums joined in stabbing him on the head that the police arrived the scene and arrested some of them while I was trying to rescue him and two of the boys who started the fight,” Innocent said. According to him, all attempts to get the policemen to rush Efenji to hospital failed.
He said, “Instead, they cocked their guns and threatened to label me an armed robber if I failed to get into their vehicle. It was later we heard he had died after losing so much blood.” Police later paraded some suspects.
In the case of Nation’s Edo Sule Ugbagwu, reports have it that unknown gunmen shot him in the head at his residence in Shasha outskirt of Lagos. His wife, Mariam, said she and Ugbagwu had left the house in the evening of the fateful day for shopping when her husband received a call on his mobile phone. She said Ugbagwu might have described how to get to their house to the caller after which he asked her to wait for him as he dashed back "to get something" from the house.
Soon, a car drove by; the occupants stared at her and the car made a u-turn. She said she returned home to know why her husband had not rejoined her, only to find him in a pool of his own blood.
In the case of NTA camera man Zakariya Isa, gunmen opened fire on him in his house in Bulunkutu Gomari. The Boko Haram group claimed responsibility for the killing, accusing Isa of spying on it. The sect said it killed Isa because it had evidence that he was an informant for security services and warned that it would kill anyone else who stepped on its toes.
"Zakariya was killed because he was an informant of security agencies ... He gave information to security agents that led to the arrest of many of our members. We killed him not because he was a journalist but because of his personal misconduct, which was against the ethics of his profession," said a statement from Abu Qaqa, a spokesman for Boko Haram.
Isa’s death was the first time the sect killed a journalist since the insurgency started.
In the case of Nansok Sallah of Highland FM, who was news editor of the radio house, he was found lying face-down in a shallow stream under a bridge less than 200 meters (650 feet) from a military checkpoint in Jos. Highland FM General Manager Terzungwe Wua told CPJ that Wua said the journalist's body bore no bruises, but a wound on the back of his right ear was noticeable. Sallah's colleagues told CPJ they suspected he had been murdered because his valuables, were stolen from him. The cause of the killing of Sallah had since remained unclear.
In the case of Enenche Okogwu, the reporter met his death during the January Kano bombing by the sect which led to the dead of many in the city.
Okogwu was said to have been recording the location of the multiple bomb attacks in Kano when was shot shortly after arriving at the scene of the Farm center police station attack in Kano.
After the first explosion at the police headquarters, the reportedly went out to the spot to ask a few people loitering around about the blast thinking they could provide eyewitness accounts. However, they were said to have pull a gun and shot and killed him on the spot.
Though no journalist was killed in the Thisday attack, a few others working in the company were killed. However a reporter, Senator Iroegbu narrowly escaped death as he sustained injuries. Another journalist, Dele Ogbodo, who survived the attack also narrowly escaped death when the sect hit the United Nations building in Abuja last year.
Across the world journalists have continued to be killed and brutalised. Those killed recently include Ali Shaaban, (Al-Jadeed), April 9, 2012, in Wadi Khaled, Lebanon;  Mahad Salad Adan, (Shabelle Media Network), April 5, 2012, in Beledweyne, Somalia; Ahmed Ismail Hassan, (Freelance), March 31, 2012, in Salmabad, Bahrain; Ali Ahmed Abdi,(Radio Galkayo), Puntlandi, March 4, 2012, in Galkayo, Somalia; Rajesh Mishra, (Media Raj), March 1, 2012, in Rewa, India; Abukar Hassan Mohamoud, (Somaliweyn Radio) February 28, 2012, in Mogadishu, Somalia and Anas al-Tarsha, (Freelance), February 24, 2012, in Homs, Syria.
Others are Rémi Ochlik, (Freelance), February 22, 2012, in Homs, Syria; Marie Colvin, (Sunday Times), February 22, 2012, in Homs, Syria; Rami al-Sayed, (Freelance), February 21, 2012, in Homs, Syria; Aldion Layao, (dxRP Radio), April 8, 2012, in Davao, Philippines; Yadav Poudel, (Avenues TV, Rajdhani Daily, Mechi Times), April 3, 2012, in Birtamode, Nepal; Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo, (Metro Radio Estéreo), March 15, 2012, in Dosquebradas, Colombia
Also killed this year include Samid Khan Bahadarzai, (Melma Radio), February 21 or 22, 2012, in Orgun, Afghanistan; Chandrika Rai, (Navbharat, The Hitavada), February 18, 2012, in Umaria, India; Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, (Jornal Da Praça, Mercosul News), February 12, 2012, in Ponta Porá, Brazil; Meherun Runi, (ATN Bangla Television), February 11, 2012, in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Golam Mustofa Sarowar, (Maasranga Television), February 11, 2012, in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Christopher Guarin, (Radyo Mo Nationwide and Tatak News), January 5, 2012, in General Santos City, Philippines and Shukri Abu al-Burghul, (Al-Thawra and Radio), Damascus, January 3, 2012, in Damascus, Syria.
In the case of Somalia, two gunmen in February repeatedly shot Abukar Hassan Mohamoud outisde his home in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu, killing him instantly. That was the third targeted killing of a journalist in Mogadishu since December 2011.
The other two journalists killed recently died under similar circumstances. On January 28, Hassan Osman Abdi, the director of Shabelle Media Network, one of the leading media organizations in Mogadishu, was shot by gunmen outside his home in Wadajir, and died on his way to a hospital. Hassan was the third Shabelle Media Network director to have been killed. Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed in 2009 and Bashir Nur Gedi in 2007.
On December 18, Abdisalam Sheik Hassan, a freelance reporter with Horn Cable TV Station, was shot in broad daylight in the Hamer Jabjab district of Mogadishu by a gunman in a government military uniform after receiving a series of threats, including a death threat in person.
On Monday, in Brazil, Decio Sa, a political reporter for the newspaper, O Estado do Maranhao in northeastern Brazil, became the fourth journalist slain this year in the South American nation, one of the deadliest for reporters to work in.
A gunman fired six bullets into Sa's head and chest in a restaurant in the state capital of Sao Luis on Monday night. He died instantly and the killer fled on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice who was waiting outside, the Maranhao state public safety department said in a statement
Meanwhile reacting to the Thisday bombing and general attacks on journalists, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) condemned the attack adding that it would however not deter the media from carrying out its duties.
President of NUJ, Mohammed Garba, said the attack has further confirmed that journalists are not safe, our media houses are not safe in the country.
In the same vein, NGE in a statement by its President, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, said the attack was against the freedom of speech, expression and thought come under assault and democracy is threatened.
Be it as it may, issues of security for journalist have been thrown up and critics believe that laws to for life insurance for journalists should be initiated. Also there must be concerted efforts to ensure that life and property of the general public in Nigeria is guaranteed.
On the whole, journalism still remain one of the most dangerous occupation and the practitioners are still paying the supreme price for a vocation that flows only with the flair and not with large pockets.

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