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Why Nigeria Dropped Five Places on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index

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Lilian Ezejelue                                                                  

Out of the 180 countries ranked in World Press Freedom Index 2016   Nigeria is 116th position on the list, falling five places from its previous position.

Namibia is the highest ranked African country with 17th position, followed by Ghana, ranking 26th.

Violence and fear has been listed as some of the factors inhibiting press freedom in countries. For years now Nigeria has been ravaged with violence, especially in the Northern parts of the country, and this restricts free movement for journalists who have now been accused of sitting in their offices to concoct news stories rather practice investigative journalism.

 

It has become increasingly risky to operate as a journalist in Nigeria under the present clime.  Radeno Haniel, a Nigerian video journalist who operates from Adamawa state, one of the Northern Nigerian states greatly affected by Boko Haram attacks, has witnessed violence and death first hand. Yet Radeno is unable to document these events as they really are, for the world to see, due to threats he constantly faces while on the job.

Randy with Gov Shettima
Randy with Gov Shettima

“In my experience as a video journalist, I would say I have had my fair share of challenges while tracking stories, especially when they are of a sensitive nature. I recall in 2014 when a helicopter crashed somewhere in Girei LGA, Adamawa. After driving for so many hours through rough and sandy terrain, we finally got to the crash site. When we arrived, I and a few colleagues were stopped by security agents who had cordoned the perimeter. Upon insisting that we had to take pictures to show the world what really happened we were warned by the armed guards that failure to vacate the crash site would lead to both of us getting shot. We eventually had to leave despite driving through rough terrain with only few images of shrapnel and surrounding pictures.”

Randy with the local kids
Randy with the local kids

When the very first bomb blast rocked the once peaceful Adamawa state on the fourth of June 2015, Radeno was among the first journalists courageous enough to brave it to the site, however his effort was again frustrated by security agents.

Randy with Officers
Randy with Officers

“At the scene of the first bomb blast, we were taking photographs and video footage when the security agents said the bodies of the victims had to be moved from site to the ambulance so as to be conveyed to the hospital. A warning was issued that any journalist caught taking pictures would have his or her equipment smashed.”

Randy with victim of Boko Haram attack
Randy with victim of Boko Haram attack

Radeno’s experience is not unlike what so many other journalists within Nigeria experience while trying to perform their duties of informing the public. Radeno is fully aware of the implications of the job and the risk involved but his passion has kept him going. However, sometimes he wonders if it is really worth the risk.

“The travails of a Nigerian journalist are numerous, considering what we have to go through. Sometimes one is forced to ask ‘Is it really worth it?’ yet by sheer determination and drive to succeed the Nigerian journalist bears a never say die attitude.”

Randy with Nima
Randy with Nima

Radeno’s stories have been featured on CNN and he has also been awarded the CNN iReporters badge for his story on the crashed helicopter. When CNN’s senior International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir, came to Nigeria to cover the Chibok girls’ abduction story, Radeno worked with her as a videographer, translator and editor of the story.

Randy documenting a surgery
Randy documenting a surgery

Asides documenting stories on violence, Radeno also reports on the activities of politicians, children and new talents around Northern Nigeria, but one factor remains constant in all the facets he covers – The paranoia people have about journalists and their reluctance to part with useful information. This is one of the reasons for Nigeria’s falling position in the World Press Freedom Index.

The World Press Freedom Index is a yearly compilation done by Reporters Without Borders. This index ranks countries according to the freedom accorded journalists. The index is compiled by a means of questionnaires translated into twenty languages and completed by professionals all over the world.  Rankings on the Index are decided based on an evaluation of freedom of the media taking into consideration the following; pluralism, media independence, the quality of legal framework and the safety of journalists.

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