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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Nigeria

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Nigeria, February 1999, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As of December 31, 1998

For Nigeria's besieged independent journalists, the death of military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha on June 8 saved some lives among their ranks. However, the July 7 death in prison of Moshood Abiola, the putative winner of the 1993 democratic elections, dashed their hopes for true democracy and press freedom in the near future.

Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, a senior career soldier who was virtually unknown outside of military circles, emerged as Abacha's successor. The country's watchdog press dug in their heels to face off with yet another dictator, and immediately exposed Abubakar's relationship with his mentor, close friend, and neighbor, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. The former military ruler, who has remained a potent behind-the-scenes force within the military since he ceded power to Abacha in a 1993 coup d'état, has now assumed a public role in Abubakar's regime. Ironically, he has begun courting the same press that he targeted earlier in the 1990s.

Abacha's death did nothing to expunge one of his despotic legacies – a wide selection of onerous decrees which the Abubakar government could use to punish journalists who continue to criticize official actions: The Detention of Persons Decree No. 2, allowing indefinite, incommunicado detention of citizens; the Offensive Publications Decree No. 35 of 1993, which allows the government to seize any publication deemed likely to "disturb the peace and public order of Nigeria"; and the Treason and Treasonable Offenses Decree No. 29 of 1993, which was used in 1995 by a special military tribunal to convict Kunle Ajibade, Chris Anyanwu, George M'bah, and Ben Charles-Obi as "accessories after the fact to treason" for reporting on an alleged coup plot, continue to threaten journalists. The four journalists, who were released by Abubakar in June, would certainly still be serving their 15-year prison terms if Abacha had lived. (For more information see "Outliving Abacha: Six Journalists' Prison Stories," a special report on Nigeria.)

The Mass Media Commission, a proposed regulatory body that would be granted wide powers to restrict journalists' ability to practice their profession, and grants the state authority to silence the press in the name of national security, remains on the regime's agenda. In the meantime, the independent media are watching the new regime carefully, judging Abubakar on his actions rather than his promises.

At year's end, Niran Malaolu, editor of the privately owned newspaper The Diet, remained in prison. Malaolu, who was arrested in December 1997, was convicted on April 28 by a Special Military Tribunal for involvement in an alleged coup plot against Abacha. On July 10, Malaolu's sentence was reduced to 15 years – still a horrifying prospect given the deplorable conditions he must endure in Katsina Prison, where he is reportedly critically ill and denied medical treatment. Although the scores of journalists released this year may begin to rebuild their lives, Malaolu's imprisonment serves as a reminder that egregious press freedom abuses could begin again at any time unless the country undertakes long-term reforms and true democratization.

Attacks on the Press in Nigeria in 1998

8/28/98Okezie Amaruben, NewsserviceKilled
8/18/98Independent Communications Network Limited (ICNL)Threatened
8/18/98TheNEWS/Tempo/PM News GroupThreatened, Harassed
5/8/98Biodun Ogunleye, VanguardAttacked
5/6/98Femi Adeoti, Sunday TribuneImprisoned, Legal Action
4/29/98Rotimi Obamuwagun, ODTVHarassed
4/29/98Seinde Adeniyi, ODTVHarassed
4/29/98Ola Bamidele, ODTVHarassed
4/21/98Kayode Adedire, Osun State Broadcasting CorporationCensored
4/21/98Femi Adefila, Osun State Broadcasting CorporationCensored
04/20/98Independent Communications Network Limited (ICNL)Harassed, Censored
04/20/98Austin Uganwa, ICNLImprisoned
04/20/98B. Osoba, ICNLImprisoned
04/20/98Independent Communications Network Limited (ICNL)Harassed, Censored
04/20/98Austin Uganwa, ICNLImprisoned
04/20/98B. Osoba, ICNLImprisoned
04/20/98Independent Communications Network Limited (ICNL)Harassed, Censored
04/20/98Austin Uganwa, ICNLImprisoned
04/20/98B. Osoba, ICNLImprisoned
4/15/98Ademola Adeyemo, This DayAttacked
4/15/98Dan Ukana, This DayAttacked
4/15/98Wale Ogundoyin, OmegaAttacked
4/15/98Sanya Adejokun, Nigerian TribuneAttacked
4/6/98Morgan Omodu, Radio RiversHarassed
4/6/98Isaac Agbo, The DietAttacked
4/2/98Sam Akpe, PioneerHarassed
4/2/98Roland Esin, State Broadcasting Station Harassed
3/27/98Danlami Nmodu, Tell Imprisoned
3/26/98NULGE NewsCensored
3/26/98The True NULGE NewsCensored
3/24/98Chidi Nkwopara, National ConcordImprisoned
3/24/98Donatus Njoku, The StatesmanImprisoned
3/22/98John Edward, Prime SunsetImprisoned
3/22/98Ganiyu Adeoye, Prime SunsetImprisoned
3/12/98Joe Ajaero, VanguardImprisoned
3/10/98Abdul Rahma Maliki, Kwara State TelevisionAttacked
3/9/98Joshua Ogbonna, Rising SunImprisoned
3/3/98Yusuph Olaniyonu, This Day Attacked, Harassed
3/3/98Sunday Ode, New NigerianAttacked, Harassed
3/3/98Emmanuel Ogunyale, Nigerian Tribune Attacked, Harassed
3/3/98Mrs. Yewande Oluchi, African Independent TV Attacked, Harassed
3/3/98Kola Oshiyemi, News Agency of NigeriaAttacked, Harassed
3/3/98Chukudi Nwabuko, This DayAttacked, Harassed
3/3/98Robert Kajo, This Day Attacked, Harassed
3/3/98Bassey Udo, Post ExpressAttacked, Harassed
3/3/98Monday Emoni, TheNEWS and TEMPO Attacked, Threatened
3/3/98Mustapha Isa, African Independent TV Attacked, Harassed
2/27/98Tunde Oladepo, The GuardianKilled
2/22/98Lanre Arogundade, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)Harassed
2/22/98Lanre Ogundipe, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)Harassed
2/14/98Niran Malaolu, The DietImprisoned, Legal Action
1/9/98Omega WeeklyHarassed
1/5/98Obi Chukwumba, African ConcordImprisoned
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