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CPJ: Nigerian journalist Sikiru Obarayese attacked by police while covering COVID-19 lockdown

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Abuja, August 11, 2020 – Nigerian authorities should thoroughly investigate the recent attack on journalist Sikiru Obarayese and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 3, at least four police officers slapped, kicked, and used their batons to beat Obarayese, a correspondent for the privately owned Daily Post newspaper, while he was reporting on officers’ enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions in Old Garage, a suburb of the western Osun State’s capital Oshogbo, according to the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via phone and messaging app, and a report by the Daily Post.

Obarayese told CPJ that police questioned him after he photographed officers beating people who had allegedly violated the state’s requirement to wear face masks, and said that Adebayo Adeleke, a local state commissioner who was at the scene, ordered the officers to attack him.

The attack left Obarayese with injuries on his elbow, a scratch on his right leg, and pains in his knees, according to the Daily Post and Obarayese. He received an x-ray on his knee following the attack, but told CPJ that the injury was not serious.

“The attack by police on journalist Sikiru Obarayese is an alarming reminder of the Nigerian police’s willingness to target the press for doing their jobs,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists must be free to report on how authorities enforce COVID-19 response measures, and those responsible for violence against the public and the media must be held accountable.”

Obarayese told CPJ that the Osun state chief press secretary, Ismail Omipidan, called and apologized for the attack, and gave him 50,000 naira ($129) to cover his medical bills.

In a phone call with CPJ, Adeleke denied ordering any attack on Obarayese. Adeleke also published an article on the privately owned news website News Indicator, disputing Obarayese’s account of the incident, and denying that police had attacked the journalist at all.

CPJ’s calls to Omipidan went unanswered.

When CPJ called the Osun state police command for comment, spokesperson Opalola Yemisi Olawoyin said she was not aware of the incident, but would follow up with those involved.

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