Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Nigeria, Boko Haram and the threats to journalism

Journalism is under a serious threat in Nigeria. After last week’s attack on one of the most important newspapers in the country, ThisDay, perhaps the most supportive of the government’s line, the leader of the Islamic radical group Boko Haram has named several media houses and their staff as targets for their future attacks. At least seven people were killed last week in the attacks at ThisDay’s offices in the capital of Abuja and the city of Kaduna. In a video recently released, Boko Haram explained their specific reasons behind these attacks:
“We wish to explain about the attack we carried out on ThisDay Newspapers. Some of the reasons why we decided to attack some Media Houses, especially ThisDay, is because the paper was used in dishonouring our prophet, Mohammad (SAW) during a beauty pageant in Kaduna in November 2000”.
The bad coverage of the group’s activities and any perceived offences committed against Islam seem to be the major reasons for their attacks. Other media houses likely to be targeted by this group include the Guardian Newspaper, Daily Sun, VOA Hausa Radio and Radio France, among others. They have also been divided into categories, from most likely to be attacked in the nearby future to those which can become potential targets if they carry on their perceived insults to Islam. The influential ThisDay was the first on a list that seems to get longer and longer by the day. Boko Haram, whose name in Husa language means ‘Western Education is forbidden’, seeks to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state based on Sharia law in the predominantly Muslim states of the north. Over the last few years the extremist group has maintained a violent conflict against the government killing more than 1000 people and targeting from foreign citizens and government buildings, as well as universities, churches and media houses and their staff. These attacks reflect the increasing sectarian divide between the government and Boko Haram and the weak response of the government so far. Journalists should be guaranteed security as much as possible as they risk their lifes to provide us with key information. They should be protected and rewarded, not killed.

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