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Union Hopes to Negotiate Release of Kidnapped Nigerian Journalists

  • Ricci Shryock

The Federation of African Journalists has condemned the kidnapping of four journalists in Nigeria this week. The kidnappers have demanded a ransom of $1.7 million.

Kidnappers in Nigeria are holding four Nigerian journalists and their driver captive in the southeastern region of the country. The National Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Shuidu Usman Leman, said the kidnappers told him they are now willing to lower their initial demand of $1.7 million.

"They called me this morning to say that they are ready to negotiate down so that they can take their money and vanish," said Leman.

The four journalists and their driver were on their way back from an executive meeting of the Nigerian Union of Journalists when they were stopped in the road by gunmen.

Attacks against journalists are not uncommon in Nigeria, but kidnappings of local journalists are rare because most earn very little.

Leman added that the kidnappers said they did not target the journalists because of their profession.

"I explained to them that, 'Why are you taking journalists who don't have money?' The answer I got was they don't give a damn and all they needed from us is money," Leman said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Federation of African Journalists called the act 'deplorable,' and added that the four union leaders are committed to defending journalists' rights and interests. Leman said he worries that this act will have negative consequences for Nigeria.

"The recent happenings really renew some fresh concern about the practice of journalism in Nigeria," added Leman. "This is the first time we are experiencing this. Our concern is that if this thing is not resolved in the next forty eight hours, I don't know the consequences this will have."

In their statement, the Federation of African Journalists said it has long been concerned about rights violations against journalists in Nigeria. Three journalists were murdered in the country earlier this year.