IFJ Condemns Nigeria Over “Violent and Intimidating” Police Treatment of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the “brutality” of police actions in Nigeria yesterday against journalists covering a general strike against oil price hikes.

“The violent and intimidating action of the police verged on brutality,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, speaking over police tactics against union pickets and journalists covering demonstrations.

Nigerian unions launched a strike on Monday (June 30th) in protest at a more than 50% government increase in the prices of petrol kerosene and diesel on June 20th. Although officials claim that the hiking of prices has been necessary in order to end shortages and smuggling, such increments only serve to fuel the fire of economic hardship, which has plagued Nigeria for several years now.

Negotiations between the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the government of newly elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo, have reached a stalemate after having been delayed twice yesterday, when riot police fired tear gas at picketing union leaders. The police also beat union activists and journalists with whips and rifle butts at demonstrations in the capital, Abuja.

In conjunction with its partner in Nigeria, The International Press Centre (IPC), the IFJ has denounced the arrest of two journalists, Mrs Funmi Komolafe, Labour Editor of Vanguard and Ola Awoniyi of Agence France Presse by the police in Abuja on Monday, June 30th.

The IFJ says these detentions are a flagrant abuse of the basic journalistic right to work free from coercion. The IFJ says also that they clearly transgress current international conventions as well as Nigerian constitutional statutes.

Discussions are set to continue between the NLC and the Nigerian government, but the signs remain bleak that a prolonged shutdown can be avoided, in a volatile situation that has also seen the closure of major industries ranging from breweries to textile mills. The IFJ says it will maintain a close watch as events unfold in order to prevent further infringements of journalists’ rights in Nigeria.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries