The International Press Centre (IPC) has revealed that no fewer than 41 journalists have been attacked at different locations in the country in the course of their duties between January and August.
The Programme Officer of the Centre, Melody Akinjiyan-Lawal, made the revelation recently during a webinar on Edo and Ondo States elections in Benin.
According to Akinjiyan-Lawal, she said about 41 attacks, 35 were on male, while five were on female and one was on a media house. Noting that the nature of the attacks was in the form of harassment, threats to life, physical and verbal assault as well as damage to work equipment, among others.
Akinjiyan-Lawal further explained that journalists need to take cognizance of the fact that nothing had changed in the way and manner politicians viewed election to be a do-or-die affair.
She said: “So journalists must report effectively while staying safe in the dangerous electoral terrain we still operate. In this regard, it is important for journalists to situate their role and interest in the context of the interest of the two major stakeholders which are the politicians and the people.
“The candidates and their supporters in these elections will not care whose ox is gored for them to actualize their ambition.
“Journalists need to keep abreast of this fact so as not to be victims of any crossfire.”
The Programme Officer stressed that journalists covering the Edo and Ondo States elections must not be partisan, but be smart and ensure that they moved in groups during the exercise.
Also speaking at the event, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, spoke on the proactive measures taken by the commission to address security concerns ahead of the polls.
According to him consultations with the Inter Consultative Committee on Election Security in Edo and Ondo States were ongoing to ensure the safety of everybody during and after the elections.
He said: “About two weeks ago, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, led a delegation to meet with the revered Oba of Benin, to ask him to intervene and appeal to political actors to allow a peaceful election.
“The respected monarch promised to invite them to his palace for interaction and he has already done so.
“Plans have also been concluded for all the 14 political parties participating in the election to sign a peace accord in the coming days.”
Oyekanmi noted that with all the efforts, it is hoped that the election will be held peacefully.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade, in his early address, said the training was one in a series for journalists across the country under the European Union support for democratic governance in Nigeria.
Arogundade said the safety of journalists was paramount in the Edo and Ondo State polls, hence tagging the training: “Imperative of Safety Consciousness and Conflict Sensitivity in Media Coverage and Reportage.”
The webinar was organized by the IPC in conjunction with the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria for Journalists.