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Amnesty International accuses FG of media crackdown, human right abuses

By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos

The global rights warchdog, Amnesty International (AI) has accused the Federal Government (FG) of embarking on a media crackdown.

AI reported that 2016 witnessed a disturbing rise in arrests and intimidation of media professionals and activists in Nigeria, with at least ten journalists and bloggers were arrested.

Media Manager at Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi stated that Nigeria specifically, witnessed government responding to legitimate dissent with extreme measures that had devastating impacts on the civic space.

AI in its annual 2016 to 2017 report, titled The State of the World’s Human Rights, highlights how the Nigerian government responded to legitimate security fears with gross human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

The organization at the launch of the report yesterday in Abuja, warned that 2017 will see ongoing crises exacerbated by a debilitating absence of human rights leadership on a chaotic world stage.

While the politics of “us vs them” is also taking shape at the international level, replacing multilateralism with a more aggressive, confrontational world order, AI says.

AI in its report stated, “The past year has also seen a disturbing rise in arrests and intimidation of media professionals and activists in Nigeria. At least ten journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2016, some for alleged connections to Boko Haram, in a crackdown that appears to have been orchestrated to suffocate freedom of expression.

“In January, members of the Nigerian army raided the editorial offices of Premium Times and arrested journalists Dapo Olorunyomi and Evelyn Okakwu. They were subsequently released but the move sent a clear message to intimidate journalists and the media.

“In Nigeria, it highlights how government responded to legitimate security fears with gross human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

“2016 was the year when the cynical use of ‘us vs them’ narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s. Across the world and in Nigeria specifically, we witnessed governments responding to legitimate dissent with extreme measures that had devastating impacts on the civic space.

“In south-east Nigeria, security forces led by the military, embarked on a chilling campaign of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. Many individuals are still being detained incommunicado while state security agents have killed at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters.
“In Nigeria’s north-east, the ongoing conflict between the Boko Haram armed group and the country’s security forces has affected more than 14 million people, with two million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

“The armed conflict drove millions from their homes, leaving them living in squalid conditions in camps under heavy military guard and without adequate access to food, water and medical care. Throughout the year, hundreds died in these camps because of malnutrition.

“Amnesty International is warning that 2017 will see ongoing crises exacerbated by a debilitating absence of human rights leadership on a chaotic world stage. The politics of “us vs them” is also taking shape at the international level, replacing multilateralism with a more aggressive, confrontational world order.

“We cannot passively rely on governments to stand up for human rights, we the people have to take action. With politicians increasingly willing to demonize entire groups of people, the need for all of us to stand up for the basic values of human dignity and equality everywhere has seldom been clearer.”

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