Nigeria NGO petitions UN over media clampdown

LAGOS – A Nigerian rights group has complained to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression over the recent seizure of media publications.

"The seizure and censorship of major newspapers critical of government policies amounts to undue and impermissible external interference in the operations of independent media houses," Adetokunbo Mumuni, executive director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), wrote in a petition to the U.N.

"This apparently unlawful action has in turn negatively impacted the citizens' effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression," he added.

Mumuni said SERAP continues to receive information about "continuing threats against and harassment of independent media houses solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and the media."

On Saturday, defense spokesman Chris Olukolade denied any intention to gag the media, insisting the move followed an "intelligence report indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint-related consignment."

Nevertheless, the random search-and-seizure of certain major newspaper consignments entered its third day on Monday.

Some local media outlets have described the campaign as a throwback to Nigeria's military junta, under which journalists were hounded and thrown in jail.

Mumuni urged the U.N. to issue an "urgent appeal and measures to stop the government of President Goodluck Jonathan from continuing harassment and intimidation of several media houses and newspapers."

"Unless the [U.N.] Special Rapporteur takes action urgently, the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom will continue to be under grave threat," he added.

Efforts by Anadol Agency to reach presidential spokesmen for comment were unsuccessful.

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