Saturday, June 7, 2014

Nigeria: Update--Soldiers Seize Copies of Newspapers as Foreign Nations Seemingly Fail to Find 200 Kidnapped Schoolgirls

According to AFP, four Nigerian newspapers said the country's military stopped and seized copies of its print editions on Friday (June 6) over security concerns, with one likening the raids to censorship during the country's military rule.

The military confirmed the searches, but officers denied that the moves were designed to muzzle critics, even though at least two of the newspapers had published damning articles about the military in recent days.

Four dailies: The Nation, The Daily Trust, The Leadership and Punch--all said they were affected, while The Nation said soldiers stormed one of its circulation offices.

Nigeria's military has been under sustained pressure, including in the media, over its response to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives since it began five years ago.

Attacks by Boko Haram have sharply risen of late,  with the military apparently powerless to prevent the bloodshed, exacerbated by the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls on April 15.

COMMENT: As our readers will recall, I cautioned those nations helping out to find the kidnapped girls that their time in Nigeria was perishable until such time as they, too, would be blamed for failure to find the girls, who by now have been sold into sex slavery. What a pity.  

On Tuesday (June 3), THE LEADERSHIP claimed in its edition that ten army generals and five senior officers had just been court-martialed and found guilty of assisting Boko Haram. 

As I have said so often over the years, "...if there is a naira to be made in Nigeria, it can usually be traced to a corrupt military officer."

Sue Valentine, Africa program coordinator for the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned that "denying Nigerians access to news and information sows the seeds of rumors and distrust."

Nigeria's response to the mass abduction of the teenage girls has been criticized as slow, inept and with little sense of urgency, while social media has prompted greater international media scrutiny of the counter-insurgency.

PUNCH said that copies of its edition were seized at Lagos International Airport and distribution vans stopped and searched nationwide.

A number of publications were either shut down or forced underground and editors fled abroad after printing articles critical of the government.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Nigeria 112th out of 180 countries worldwide in its 2014 Press Freedom Index.

Last month, the Nigerian military attacked a May 23rd NEW YORK TIMES report that suggested a lack of training and endemic corruption in the Nigerian military was hampering the search for the girls.