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Nigerian journalists attacked while covering embezzlement trial

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) condemns the 11 April 2013 attack on journalists at the Abuja High Court. The reporters were covering an ongoing criminal trial over the embezzlement of a police pension fund of over N40 billion.

Reports say that some supporters of one of the suspects on trial, Mrs. Uzoma Attang, attacked journalists who were attempting to take photographs of the suspects as they stepped out of the courtroom. Reports further state that one of Mrs. Attang's supporters manhandled and slapped Mr. Rotimi Osasona, a photojournalist with the National Mirror newspaper.

Another accused person, Mrs. Veronica Onyegbula, is also reported to have personally hit Mr. Desmond Kolawole, a cameraman with Galaxy Television, who was recording her on video while she was stepping out of the court and attempting to cover her face with an item of clothing.

Other photojournalists were also said to have been chased about in the court premises and assaulted while trying to take photographs of the accused persons who were being shielded from the press by their associates and supporters.

Condemning the incident, MRA's executive director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said such attacks on media professionals in the course of their legitimate duties amount to a grave violation of media freedom and the right to freedom of expression.

According to Mr. Ojo, “that these incidents took place in the premises of the court makes the situation even more egregious. No court should tolerate such flagrant contempt of its authority. We accordingly call on the court to investigate the matter and hold the affected accused persons and their supporters who are found to be complicit in the attacks in contempt of the court.”

MRA also calls on the relevant law enforcement agencies to prosecute the perpetrators, at a minimum, for breach of the peace and assault, saying that unless such measures are taken, those who are charged with upholding and enforcing the law would themselves be contributing to instituting a culture of impunity in the country.

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