by Stanley Azuakola
These are dangerous times to be a journalist in Nigeria.
Just last month, Benedict Uwalaka, a photo journalist with Leadership newspaper was assaulted at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) by hospital officials, when he went to cover the release of the corpses of the Dana crash.
On Tuesday in Abuja another journalist, Terhembe Daka, was the victim. Daka, who was part of the press crew which travelled with the minister of State for the FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide, was attacked by a team of police officers and operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). His offence was that he took photographs of the minister’s car stuck in a mudslide. Daka is a journalist with the Guardian newspaper.
The minister was reportedly on a project inspection tour in Bwari area council before heavy rains forced the convoy, comprising of Land Cruisers, to cut short the trip and return through a marshy bush path. Unfortunately, the minister’s car got trapped in the marshes, and aides spent several minutes trying to release it. At that point, accompanying journalists decided to take a few photo shots of the drama.
The police and SSS officials protecting the minister would have none of it though. They allegedly accosted Terhembe Daka, seized his phone, and deleted the photographs. The deletion was done by the FCT c-oordinator of MDG programs and director of Economic Planning, Isah Mohammed.
Thereafter, Daka was questioned by aides while his phone was withheld. Explanations from other journalists did little to assuage the officials.
“This should not be for the press,” some of the officials screamed at the reporters.
The drama eventually ended with the intervention of the special assistant on Media and Public Affairs to the minister, Oluyinka Olukayode, who apologised to the journalists.