International and local media rights groups say the Nigerian government has stepped up efforts to intimidate and harass journalists for increasingly criticizing its policies. For example, the government recently arrested a director of the northern-based Media Trust Organization and charged him with belonging to al-Qaida.
Britain has also expressed concern about what it calls the state of press freedom in Nigeria. And in a recent report, the Media Foundation of West Africa says Nigeria leads the sub-region in abuses against journalists. But Nigerian information minister Frank Nweke has denied the charge. He says government has a responsibly to ensure that journalists operate within the law.
Ndagene Akwu, the national president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), says the government has to take steps to improve current strained relations with the media. “Reporters should not be intimidated or harassed in the pursuit of their jobs. We will continue to fight any threats to our members.”
He says despite the problems now facing journalists, the current democratic government has not been as restrictive as governments have been in the past. “Past military governments have arrested, beaten and killed several journalists, some in secret, and that cannot be compared to the problems we are facing now.”
He says journalists are also concerned about the April election. “We are worried that our members may become victims during the election, so we are trying to make sure they are not arrested by government or influenced by politicians.”