The continuing spate of arrests and detentions of journalists and bloggers amid the security forces’ violent disruption of peaceful protests underscores how the Nigerian government appears determined to crush dissent and suffocate freedom of expression, said Amnesty International (AI) Wednesday.
The organisation called on the federal government to ensure the rights of Nigerians to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, as guaranteed by international human rights law and the 1999 Constitution.
“The escalation in the intimidation of journalists and bloggers over recent months seems to be little more than a barefaced attempt by the Nigerian government to muzzle dissenting voices in the country,” said Makmid Kamara, Interim Country Director at Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Alongside the security forces’ violent assault on peaceful protesters, this crackdown constitutes a growing threat to human rights enshrined in international law and the Nigerian constitution.”
The organisation also condemned the police for blocking a peaceful protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in the capital Abuja to call for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, who has been in detention without trial since December 2015; the stopping of members of the Bring Back Our Girls movement gathering to march to Presidential Villa to demand that the government do more to secure the release of Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram over two years ago; and the detention of scores of supporters of Biafran independence – many of them since late January – for attempting to hold or participating in peaceful assemblies and the intimidation and arrests of journalists and bloggers.