GOCOP President decries increasing cases of online violence against Journalists

Maureen Chigbo, President of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers

By Anthony Isibor

MAUREEN Chigbo, President of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, GOCOP, and the publisher of Realnews magazine has decried the increasing incidents of online threats against Journalists.

Presenting the keynote address at a Safety Symposium organised by Media Centre for the Promotion of Safety Awareness, MCPOSA, publishers of Safety & Security Watch on Thursday in Lagos, Chigbo noted that the Journalism profession has been misunderstood by the public, who have various expectations of the media.

Speaking on the theme “Mitigating Online Violence against Journalists”, Chigbo stated that while the Journalists fight for the society, the society mostly watch as the Journalists are made scapegoats for the wrong doing in the society.

She observed that though the Journalists have the onerous duty as enshrined in section 22 of the Constitution and so have the freedom to report, they are also bound in chains because there are no absolute freedom.

She called on Journalists to work towards acquiring the expertise that will allow them to work in safety and the requisite laws that guide them.

According to her, “Dead Journalists don’t write” therefore they must do everything to stay alive to do their job.

“However, research on the survival of press in Africa I conducted which was published last month, also noted that despite the Windhoek Declaration in Namibia in 1991, to protect the media from interference by governments and political and economic interests, the environment is still unsafe for journalism practice.

“The research whose recommendation I am adopting for this lecture, also found that in Africa 467 journalists had been killed and many had suffered acts of violence, jailed, and detained while on duty in the last 30 years.

“A 2020 UNESCO/ICF worldwide survey shows that three quarter (3/4) of women journalists experience online violence. That is 73 percent of 635 women journalists interviewed reported some form of online violence. Also, 20 percent report of being attacked or abused offline in connection with the online violence they had experienced.

“There has also been an increase in the number of journalists killed. In 2022, 86 journalists were killed around the world compared to 55 in 2021. The impunity for these crimes, according to the survey, remains of particular concern, with only 14 percent of cases of killed journalists over the past two decades considered judicially resolved. At the end of 2022, a record high of 363 journalists had been imprisoned compared to 248 journalists 10 years ago,” she added.

She said that despite the laws to protect journalists, they have remained victims of online abuse.

Chigbo noted that the growth in citizen journalist, who are amateur online reporters, have led the government to continue to promulgate more cyber laws that undermine free press.

“There has been increased legal harassment and intimidation of the media.

Journalists have constantly been ostracised in their communities, unduly restricted, arbitrarily scrutinised, financially constrained, undue interference, and constantly abused.

She therefore called on the public to stop blaming the Journalists, but rather stand up for them even as she urged the Journalists to understand their rights and the legal basis for defending these rights.

Professor Eustace Onuegbu

Similarly, Professor Eustace Onuegbu, Chairman of the event, noted that safety is a shared responsibility and thus Mitigating Online Violence against Journalists will require a multi-facetted approach, which will involve various stakeholders.

He called for the promotion of media literacy, strengthening legal framework and safety capacity and cooperate digital responsibility.

The professor explained that the journalist should be responsible in the way he acquires and disposes information

Onuegbu called on the government to enact and address laws that deal with the safety of journalists and not to oppress or intimidate them.

Henry Ojiokpota, Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC Zonal controller in Lagos, described the work of the journalist as a risky one that needs to be given much attention.

Henry Ojiokpota,

He noted that because Journalists have become more active online, they are constantly victims of cyber bullying.

He disclosed, however, that the NCC is constantly working tirelessly at addressing these challenges, while protecting the privacy of individuals.

He debunked the falsehood that the NCC tracks the conversation of Nigerians and that it protects the privacy of all online users.

Ojiokpota urged Journalists to leverage on the regular advisory issued by the NCC as it relates to criminal activities online.

He explained that although there are challenges, which make it difficult to stay ahead of the criminals, collaboration among security agencies and all industry stakeholders, including Nigerians, have helped to create a united front against criminals to protect the cyber space, especially through education and awareness campaigns.


-November 02, 2023 @ 16:45 GMT |