Concerned over the safety of journalists covering the forthcoming general elections in the country, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has established a hotline for prompt assistance to journalists who may come under attack during the course of their duties.
In a statement issued by its Programme Officer, John Gbadamosi, MRA said the idea was borne out of concerns towards the safety of journalists as events leading up to the elections have endangered the lives of media practitioners in the country.
The hotline according to Gbadamosi, would avail journalists access to support in times of danger and available safety as well as litigation assistance if it becomes necessary.
Expressing concern over the continuous attack and infringement of journalists’ rights by security agencies especially the police, the organization lamented that instead of protecting the journalists to carry out their duties effectively, the security agencies have to turn into a force against press freedom as they are used by selfish government officials and political actors to alter their professional work.
“Besides the immediate effects of such attacks on the affected journalists and their families, the chilling effect on media freedom is also putting Nigeria’s democracy at risk since there can be no genuine democracy where journalists and the media are unable to perform their functions without fear.
“Attacking journalists and obstructing them with impunity in the performance of their professional functions has become an equal opportunity undertaking by different actors, with men of the Nigerian Police and other security and law enforcement personnel who should ordinarily protect the journalists being the major perpetrators of the attacks against them, along with other government officials, armed hoodlums, political thugs, criminal elements and other bad actors”, Gbadamosi stated.
Unveiling the hotline, Gbadamosi said the number — 08138755660 — which can be used to make regular calls, WhatsApp calls or to send text messages or WhatsApp messages to MRA, will also be available on MRA’s website and its social media platforms so that any journalist or media worker who is threatened, under attack or has been attacked in the course of their work or as a result of their work can easily access the number and get in touch with the organization.
Advising journalists that will cover the elections, he said saving the number on their mobile devices on speed dial would help matters as it is easily and quickly accessible to them should the need arises.
He further explained that media practitioners may call the hotline or send messages to report threats of physical harm to the organization for documentation purposes and to seek advice about their legal rights or available official mechanisms at domestic, regional or international levels, for them to lodge formal complaints about the violation of their rights.
Gbadamosi further said journalists and media workers are free to lodge complaints through the number, including being prevented from doing their jobs, being subjected to degrading or inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention; assault, battery or other forms of physical violence; arbitrary raiding and searching of their homes or offices by security agents or other acts of intimidation, harassment and threats, including any such of incident targeting their family members.
He noted that the hotline will remain in operation from now until after the inauguration of the new government that emerges victorious from the elections.