IFJ Calls for Dialogue and End to Violence As Two Nigerian Newspapers are Attacked

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group today condemned rioters who attacked the daily newspaper This Day in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. The IFJ also condemned a bomb attack on the weekly newspaper National Pilot in a separate incident.

Journalists at National Pilot accused government supporters of the explosion, which caused a roof collapse injuring five workers on November 15. They said it was in retaliation over an anti-corruption report concerning a local governor.

In the second incident, rioters burned down the newspaper office on 20 November over a provocative article concerning Muslim protests and the Miss World beauty pageant being hosted by Nigeria.

"Controversy over journalism that touches sensitive issues requires dialogue not violence to find solutions," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. He said that people who have complaints about what newspapers were reporting should seek to engage in talks with editorial chiefs.

In particular, he said that leaders of the Muslim community should meet to talk through differences. The local editorial and circulations office of This Day were destroyed by a mob of angry Muslim demonstrators according to police and newspaper sources. Nobody was in the building when it was attacked.

Newspaper staff are under police protection while hundreds of heavily armed security forces have been deployed to protect the national paper's offices in Kaduna and other cities in Nigeria.

The offending article, published on 16 November under the title "The World at Their Feet," questioned why some Muslim groups condemn the pageant, scheduled for 8 December in the capital of Abuja, on the grounds it promotes sexual promiscuity and indecency. Muslims were offended by a suggestion in the article that the Prophet Muhammad might have chosen a wife from among the 60 contestants, whose photographs and profiles were featured in the paper.

On 18 November, This Day carried a brief front page editor's note apologizing for "portions that may be considered offensive to ... our Muslim brothers." It said the material had been "published in error after being removed by the supervising editor."

The bomb attack and the action of rioters suggest that the crisis fro press freedom in Nigeria is intensifying," said Aidan White "It's time for people to cool down and start talking through these issues before more tragedies occur."