Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, January 07, 2019

Democracy without a free press?

Nigerian generals are once again threatening democratic government.

Nigeria Military Raids Newspaper, Seizes Computers and Arrests Journalists
The Nigerian military stormed the headquarters and three satellite offices of one of the nation’s largest newspapers on Sunday, detaining at least two journalists and seizing computers, phones and other equipment.

The military released a statement calling its actions an “invitation” to talk to staff about a lead article on Sunday in the newspaper, Daily Trust, about a planned military operation in the town of Baga, that it said had divulged classified information, “thus undermining national security.”

The Sunday edition also included an editorial criticizing the military for its lack of progress fighting Boko Haram…

The military raid came less than two months before scheduled presidential elections in Nigeria…

Soldiers arrived Sunday afternoon at the Daily Trust office in Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded, and rounded up two journalists… The men were detained in a military barracks.

Later Sunday afternoon, armed soldiers in five vehicles stormed the paper’s main office in the capital, Abuja, and ordered journalists working inside to evacuate. They occupied the building for four hours, according to Mannir Dan-Ali, the paper’s editor in chief, ransacking the newsroom and carting away dozens of computers. Soldiers also entered the newspaper’s offices in Lagos and Kaduna…

Late Sunday, Mr. Buhari ordered soldiers out of Daily Trust offices, saying issues between the military and newspaper “will be resolved through dialogue.”

In its statement, the military said, “The Nigerian Army has no intention of muzzling the press or jeopardizing press freedom.” It added that the military would “not tolerate a situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.”

The action was criticized by the Committee to Protect Journalists and by Amnesty International, which has also faced criticism by the military after releasing reports of human rights abuses by soldiers.

Soldiers shot and killed dozens of unarmed protesters from a minority Muslim religious group, and the military lashed out at Unicef, briefly ordering the group out of the country before relenting. Soldiers were angry about a training program by the aid group that aimed to teach people to spot and report military abuses…

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