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Politician's supporters ransack radio station, attack journalists with machetes

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced outrage at a violent 23 May 2007 attack on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), a public radio broadcaster in Ibadan, in the southwestern state of Oyo, by around 100 supporters of a local politician who were angered by an announcement that state elections would go ahead on 24 May. Equipment was smashed and at least 10 journalists were hurt.

"The power struggle between two of the ruling party's local barons has gone beyond being a scandal," the press freedom organisation said. "BCOS's journalists have been the victim of hatred whipped up to serve the ambitions of powerful men. This unprecedented act of brutality must be clearly and firmly punished."

About 100 supporters of local politician Christopher Alao Akala, some armed with machetes, burst into BCOS headquarters at Orita Basorun, in Ibadan, at about 5 p.m. (local time) on 23 May and ransacked it. Many employees fled, but others were trapped in their offices. At least 10 employees received machete wounds. Most were robbed of their money and mobile phones. Several cars in the BCOS car park were vandalised. The station has stopped broadcasting.

After spending about an hour at BCOS headquarters, the protestors then went to the Ibadan city hall, known as Mapo Hall, where they attacked staff and destroyed the BCOS transmitters located there. They also damaged equipment belonging to Reltel Wireless Limited, a telecommunications company housed on BCOS premises.

Several local sources said the attacks were triggered by BCOS's announcing that the state electoral commission had decided to go ahead with elections on 24 May, a move opposed by Akala, a former deputy governor who is the candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) for governor.

A coalition of 11 parties allied to the PDP has been trying to block incumbent governor Rasheed Ladoja's desire to hold the elections before his term ends on 29 May. Akala and Ladoja have been locked in a battle for the control of Oyo state for several years.

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