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Political thugs assault photojournalists

(MRA/IFEX) - On 26 April 2009, three photojournalists from different media organizations were assaulted by political thugs at the home of a leading member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ayo Arise, in Ekiti State, southwest Nigeria.

The journalists - Segun Bakare of the private daily "The Punch", David Idowu of "Horizon Express", and Dare Fasube of another private daily, the "Vanguard" - were in a convoy of two cars in the town to cover the Ekiti State governorship election re-runs, rescheduled in two wards of Oye local government; when they noticed a commotion at a road block opposite the senator's house, they disembarked to capture the scene.

Fierce-looking men and women descended on them, beating them and damaging their equipment. Their cameras, mobile phone handsets and various sums of money were confiscated from them by their assailants who threatened to kill them if they refused to vacate the vicinity of the senator's house.

The journalists recounted that they had sought the permission of the police to record the scene and their request was granted.

In his own account, Idowu said, "When we finished taking our photographs ( . . .) as we were returning to where we parked our cars, a woman raised the alarm that we were agents of the Action Congress (the opposition party). She said we were sent by a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to Ekiti State to spy on them. She slapped and punched me. She collected my camera and walked into Arise's house."

The assailants also descended on other photojournalists for photographing the assault.

Bakare, who was the worst affected, said one Bose Arise, a relation of Senator Ayo Arise, slapped him, seized his camera and signaled to four hefty men who joined her to beat them.

Bakare recounted that, "One of the thugs said 'PUNCH, you think you can take photographs, abi? We saw you taking photographs yesterday and we've seen your paper. So you want to take more?'

"They poked their fingers in my eyes and started beating me. They collected my camera and crushed the lenses."

He said in addition, he lost N5,000 (about US$35) and his identity card to the hoodlums. The journalists were threatened with death if they did not immediately leave Oye Ekiti.

Bakare's missing items have not been recovered.

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