The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on Thursday expressed “serious concern” over the rising spate of abduction of journalists, saying it was reaching “epidemic proportions’. It called on the government and security agencies to take immediate action to locate and rescue the latest victim, Ms Chidiebere Onye, a reporter with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who was kidnapped on February 9 in Rivers State.
“By any measure, the government is failing woefully in its duty to protect journalists, particularly as there is no indication that it is taking the issue seriously or making any visible effort to ensure their safety or security ’, said Mr. Sideeq Rabiu, MRA’s Legal Officer, in a statement issued in Lagos.
Ms Onye was kidnapped at gunpoint by unknown gunmen while heading home after work, along the railway line in Woji, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State in the night of February 9, 2021. She was reportedly asked to step down from her vehicle and directed to a waiting SUV that then drove away with her to an unknown destination.
Rabiu described her kidnapping as heinous and senseless, especially as she is a nursing mother, saying “journalists are notoriously poorly paid in Nigeria and it is highly unlikely that anyone would expect to make a great deal of money by kidnapping a journalist for ransom. So we fail to understand the sudden surge in the kidnapping of journalists.”
Stressing that it was now time for the government to take action on the issue of the safety of journalists, he called for the establishment of prevention and rapid response mechanisms to provide journalists and other media workers who are threatened or under attack an avenue which they can immediately reach out to and which is competent and has adequate resources to provide effective protective measures.
He called on the government to ensure that prompt, thorough and effective investigations are conducted into all cases of violence, threats or attacks against journalists and other media workers in order to bring the perpetrators to justice, including those who conspired to commit the act, aided and abetted or covered up such crimes.