The 2020 World Press Freedom Index compiled by an international non-governmental organization, Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders), has ranked Nigeria 115th out of 180 countries.
The index, which described Nigeria as a ‘Climate of permanent violence,’ cited the killings of journalists and campaigns of disinformation as examples of the country’s attempts to weaken the press.
It said, “Nigeria is now one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who are often spied on, attacked, arbitrarily arrested or even killed.
“Two journalists have been shot dead while covering Islamic Movement in Nigeria protests one in July 2019 and the other in January 2020 without any proper investigation with the aim of identifying those responsible.
“The campaign for the elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari obtained another term in February 2019 was marked by an unprecedented level of disinformation, especially on social media, much of it the work of officials within the two main parties.”
It further stated that the defence of quality journalism in Nigeria and the protection of journalists are “very far” from being government priorities.
“With more than 100 independent newspapers, Africa’s most populous nation enjoys real media pluralism but covering stories involving politics, terrorism or financial embezzlement by the powerful is very problematic. Journalists are often denied access to information by government officials, police and sometimes the public itself.
“The all-powerful regional governors are often their most determined persecutors and act with complete impunity. In 2018, one governor had part of the premises of a radio station razed after a series of reports criticizing his handling of local affairs.
“The police also detained a journalist for several days in an attempt to identify his sources. Online freedom is restricted by a 2015 cyber-crime law that is widely used to arrest and prosecute journalists and bloggers in an arbitrary manner,” it added.
The country, however, ranked five positions higher than in 2019, when it was 120th.
The top 10 countries were Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Switzerland, New Zealand and Portugal while North Korea was ranked 180th.