Tordue Salem: Ensuring safety for journalists

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A month after Tordue Salem, a National Assembly Correspondent for the Vanguard Newspapers was declared missing in Abuja. The police authorities in the capital city paraded a 29-year-old commercial driver, Itoro Clement who was said to have hit and killed the journalist and ran away.

Salem got missing on October 13, 2021 in Abuja at about 8pm on his way from work and was declared missing by his family. His mysterious disappearance consequently elicited concerns from Nigerians and organisations including the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). The umbrella body of the media practitioners had in October, days after the disappearance of the late journalist, staged a peaceful protest to police headquarters, urging the police authority to find their colleague.

In the same vein, both chambers of the National Assembly passed a resolution on the matter, mandating the security agencies in the country to investigate the circumstances that surrounded the disappearance and possibly find him.

In fact, the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, assured the journalists that investigation was ongoing and called for the need to maintain decorum so as not to jeopardise the process and assured them of the safe return of the journalist. He said the force is concerned and further revealed that six persons have been interrogated in connection to his whereabouts. He also said that the police have traced the places he visited after he left the National Assembly and also spoken to the last person he encountered.

But there was a new twist when out of the blues, the police that had said it had investigated six people in connection to the missing of Tordue Salem, paraded Itoro as the killer. According to CP Mba, Itoro killed the vanguard correspondent in a hit-and-run incident.

Speaking to journalists when he was paraded, Itoro said, I thought it was an armed robber that I knocked down until the following day when I saw a smashed phone on my windscreen. The phone was not working again so I threw it away. The place I knocked this person down is a criminal place everybody knows that place.”

The police further said that the late Salem’s body was found a month after he went missing, at Wuse General Hospital and have been identified by the family members.

It is worrisome that the lives of journalists who are the voice of the masses and the conscience of the government are endangered in a democratic setting like Nigeria. Tordue Salem may be the recent victim of brutal killing of journalists in the country; he is unfortunately an added number to an ever increasing figure of victims’ mysterious death within the profession.

Just recently, Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes press freedom across the globe and also defend the right of journalists to report safely without fear of reprisal, in its 2017 report had ranked Nigeria 11th out of 12 countries in the world where journalists are slain and the perpetrators go away.

It is on record that Nigeria is one of the countries that are unsafe to work as a journalist. Those brave enough to tow that path continue to work under frightening conditions. We recalled that between 2015 and 2018, the country recorded the worst attacks on journalists in 34 years. Till this moment, family and associates of Abubakar Idris, known as Dadiyata, a journalist based in Kaduna, are yet to see or hear from him in two years. Idris was abducted by unidentified assailants who seized him from his residence in Barnawa neighbourhood of Kaduna state in August 2019.

While the Federal government and the Kaduna state government have consistently maintained their innocence in the abduction of Idris, the death of Tordue Salem left some questions unanswered.

It is important that the Nigerian government both at the state and the federal level must ensure that journalists are protected in the cause of carrying out their legitimate duties. More also, there is the need for media owners to priotise the welfare and safety of their staff to forestall avoidable casualties.

Tordue Salem

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