Tracereporters –Journalists who were brutally assaulted on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 in Bayelsa State have told IPC’s Centre for Safety and Protection of Journalists (I-CSPJ) that it was a needle-eye escape from the jaws of death.
The assault took place in Opu Nembe, in Nembe Local Government Area of the State, where the group of journalists had gone to assess the aftermath of a reported clash between some youths and allegedly exiled chiefs in the community.
One of the affected journalists, Joseph Kunde of Television Continental (TVC) recalled how it started:
“About six of us from four media houses went for an official assignment at the community, following news that peace had been restored and with the confidence that there were security operatives on ground securing the community, and they were actually following us up to some point while the exiled chiefs were taking us round the destroyed houses. As we were rounding off, the exiled chiefs took us through some foot paths which the police vehicle could not access and because we are not familiar with the terrain, we had no idea the hoodlums were monitoring us and took advantage of that.”
“We all ran for our safety when they came. One of my colleagues from AIT had to pretend to be dead after she was hit so badly. I ran for safety to a house where I was kept safe by a woman and her children for not less than an hour. I had to give them money to go and confirm at three different times if the hoodlums had gone, before I could come out of my hiding. They described the safest route for me to get out safely, although I still encountered some hoodlums but I was able to pull through until I found a police checkpoint. Meanwhile, I was following up on my cameraman who unfortunately was not as lucky as I was. By the time he came out of hiding, he ran into the hoodlums, they snatched his camera, microphone and every other personal item he had on him. They tore his clothes, beat him and treated him like a common criminal, alongside some of the chiefs. He even lost two of his teeth in the process,” Joseph added.
In her own account, Iniyekenime Doctor Bruce of Africa Independent Television (AIT) stated: “following reports that peace had been restored to Nembe Basambiri, I was called by some concerned chiefs so as to cover the damages caused, during the crisis.”
“In the course of carrying out my duty, I was ambushed by boys bearing guns and matchets, I then took to my heels and ran for my life. While running I fell down, hit my head on the ground and couldn’t stand up so I pretended as though I was dead, they took my camera, phone and the tripod, I heard some saying she is dead and they left me”.
Femi Folaranmi of the Sun Newspaper also said that as soon as the hoodlums ambushed them, he alongside his colleague from NTA ran into hiding for safety. “We later came out and ran to where we were able to locate police officials who rescued us from the boys. Unfortunately, some of my other colleagues were not as lucky as we were, as they were severely dealt with by the hoodlums”.
Speaking on how they were rescued, Joseph Kunde of TVC stated that, when he eventually located the police, they escorted him to rescue some of his colleagues by shooting severally into the air and using tear gas at the hoodlums who ran away. Iniyekenime Doctor Bruce of Africa Independent Television (AIT) was rescued with the help of a lady who also later robbed her, but she managed to escape. While Ayebakuro Egein and the NTA cameraman were rescued by community members. They were then taken to the hospital while they also formally reported the incident to the police.
Journalists attacked include Joseph Kunde of Television Continental (TVC) and his cameraman; Bina Miebi, Awe Baratuepre of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and his cameraman; Femi Folaranmi of the Sun Newspaper; Ayebakuro Egein and Iniyekenime Doctor Bruce of Africa Independent Television (AIT).
IPC’s Press Freedom Officer, Melody Akinjiyan, in a statement expressed grave concern over the attack and many others yet to be resolved.
Akinjiyan said although the Police helped in ameliorating the situation, it was still worrisome that the hoodlums could succeed in inflicting such degree of injury on the journalists.
Akinjiyan said the development was particularly disturbing with the off-cycle elections in the State in view.
She therefore urged the Bayelsa State Police Command under the leadership of the Commissioner of Police to thoroughly investigate the unfortunate incident and ensure that justice is done, which includes that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that peace is fully restored in the community.
I-CSPJ also implores all journalists, especially those covering the off-cycle elections to take safety precautions while carrying out their assignments.