The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has vigorously condemned the seizure of at least four prominent newspapers in Nigeria. According to IFJ affiliate, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), on Friday, 6 June, Nigerian military seized a number of newspapers including Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust and Punch.
A Defence spokesman, Chris Olukolade, has been quoted by independent sources as saying the search “followed intelligence report(s) indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint-related consignments”.
Commenting on the seizure, Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa director, said: “This is clearly a violation of the right of free expression and press freedom and the right of the public to know. Military cannot justify the seizure of newspapers.”
On Tuesday June 3, the Leadership daily claimed that ten army generals and five senior officers had been court martialed and found guilty of assisting Boko Haram. The military described the report as “very unfortunate and meant to do maximum damage to the image of (the) Nigerian Army and its personnel”.
The Daily Trust said no reason was given for the search but said that on Wednesday June 4 it published a story claiming army generals and their wives were using an Abuja barracks for their personal use.
Punch said on punchng.com that copies of its edition were seized at Lagos international airport and distribution vans stopped and searched across the country.
Reacting to the military action, Mohamed Garba, president of the NUJ, said that the union was truly worried that at a time when Nigerian security forces need the support and cooperation of the media in fighting terrorism in the country, the media is now being attacked by the same armed forces.
Garba noted that there can be no plausible explanation to this act of intimidation by the military which swooped on these newspapers, seized and destroyed this Friday’s publication ostensibly to stop stories it perceived as being embarrassing to the military.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries