Nigeria is on course to meeting the June 2017 deadline of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting
By BENJAMIN EDOKPAYI
BENIN CITY, NIGERIA – I wondered aloud “Here we go again into a season of headlines that inflame and do not correspond with the body of the story” as I read a recent Reuters article titled: “Nigeria election tensions raise spectre of break-up.”
The piece, by Tim Cocks, seemed like a patchwork of political views and analysis from around the country indicating tension and frictions as most political seasons anywhere always do. But I think the writer or his copy-desk staff derailed by insinuating a “break-up” of Nigeria in their headline.
From what I, based here in Benin City, have seen the Nigerian people are indeed anxious for a change in what the story correctly described as the most “divisive and closely fought election since the end of military rule in 1999.” But the country is not “waiting to explode” as a sub-heading in the Reuters story further implies.
In fact, minus the Boko Haram scourge in the northeast, I think the parties have coped with the contentious issues very well. In my humble opinion, the Reuters piece was inflammatory journalism at its best or worst, depending on what side of the argument you are on.
As a matter of fact, the issue of covering Africa in the right manner has been a long-running one, and probably deserves a UN-sponsored study.
Covering the continent indeed presents some real challenges which there are no easy answers for. The first thing the western media has to realize is it is a continent with 54 countries that are uniquely different, and regional nuances that cannot be replicated from country to country, as may exist in Europe.
“When a foreign journalist enters a space in which he speaks the formal but only understands the informal, a great deal will necessarily be lost in translation. I believe that it is in this space that most of the mistakes occur when writing about Africa,” Nyabola wrote in a piece that was sparked by the slanted coverage by the west of a recent crisis in Western Sudan.
Nyabola offered another interesting perspective to the challenge of reporting correctly on Africa when she wrote, “Sending people who speak only English or even Swahili to find people who also speak English or Swahili is always going to create a selection bias, and necessitates a process of translation within which the nuance of coded, non-verbal communication will be lost.”
As a matter of fact, I have been engaged for more than a week now in a passionate debate with some of my colleagues in America on how to correctly report on Africa based on how Boko Haram is being covered by both the Nigerian and the western media.
The debate was sparked by one of our colleagues in the U.S.-based National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), All Digitocracy founder Tracie Powell, who informed us after Boko Haram attacks early in January that “there is a real hunger for information about what is happening in Nigeria right now, but what little we’re getting in the U.S. is confusing.”
Our obviously concerned colleague in the U.S. was insistent on Nigerian journalists taking the lead on this story. But what she might not be aware of are the unique challenges local journalists faced, which Eyobong Ita, president of the U.S.-based National Association of African Journalists (NAAJ) tried to convey in one of the exchanges.
Ita is currently in Nigeria covering the country’s presidential election.
“It is even more difficult to cover events in the northern part of the country because of the landscape, language and culture. Among the tools needed to do a good job trying to cover anything in most part of northern Nigeria is an indigenous Hausa language translator and a lot of cash to take care of accommodation, transportation and food. Remember, some of these affected communities may not have hotels and lodging could be miles away,” wrote Ita in one of the exchanges.
From my conclusions while we are quick to accuse the western media for not covering Africa right, the local media in Nigeria should also shoulder some blame too for allowing ethical and other logistical issues affect the way they report on pressing matters impacting the continent.
So what to do?
For the media in Nigeria (I can’t speak for other African countries) we need to be more daring and resourceful in the way we cover and report issues.
I remember with pride the era of investigative journalism that the late Dele Giwa and founding editors at Newswatch turned into an art form. We braved everything including the weather and danger to get exclusive stories. Covering the Lake Nyos disaster in Cameroon is a good example for me; where I braved the elements (as well as getting lost in the forest) to get an exclusive report that was used by the foreign media, including the Voice of America’s Sonja Pace. The former managing editor of VOA confessed to me (after stopping halfway in our trek through the tropical rain forest) that that type of assignment was “not in her job description.” The inspiration that kept me and Conrad Akwu, my photographer who traveled with me, was Giwa’s challenge that “if anybody can get this story for us, Ben will.”
And for the western media? I look again to some instructive advise from my learned friend at Harvard who advises that “There is an easy way to resolve this of course: Ask Africans what they think and have them tell their own stories, instead of co-opting them to undermine or reinforce existing narratives among the Western audience. But given the aforementioned racial hierarchy of knowledge in the Western public sphere, I doubt this will happen and we should all prepare ourselves for another bout of misunderstanding.”
With more than one billion people and the huge potentials that exist here, I think it’s about time for the western media to stop portraying almost every story that originates from Africa in a negative manner. At the same time, it is past time for Nigerians, and Africans as a whole, to start doing a better job telling our own stories.
What’s Really Going On In Baga? Trying to separate fact, fiction & rumor about recent attacks in Northern Nigeria
Government efforts to co-opt journalists in Nigeria has been an ongoing problem for decades, but in light of a looming election in February and recent deadly attacks on villages in the Northern half of the country, communication from President Goodluck Jonathan‘s administration is practically non-existent, said the editor of Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper on Sunday.
“Communication from the Nigerian government has been so flawed, that rumor has become the staple in reporting on this crisis,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, managing editor of The Premium Times of Nigeria. “The government didn’t even bother to say anything about this until it had become a major national scandal.”
Over the past week, there have been sparse reports of 2,000 people massacred in Nigeria: “Hundreds of bodies, too many to count,” reads one story in the January 10th edition of The Guardian. Nigerian government officials deny this, saying only 150 people have been killed in the attacks. “In the end, what does it matter? Whether it’s 2,000 or 150, one is too many,” said Olorunyomi, who is also founder of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Reporting.
Olorunyomi spoke with All Digitocracy by phone about how journalists are trying to report on his country’s most current crisis, with little to no response from government officials. Part of the problem, Olorunyomi said, is that government officials are often suspicious of journalists. There’s a great deal of distrust between the government and news media, he added.
Journalists face difficulties in getting to the truth about the exact number of deaths for several reasons, Olorunyomi said. They include the government’s unwillingness to cooperate with news media, having to navigate difficult and remote terrain, and the fact that insurgents now control 50 to 60 percent of the the Northern Nigerian states where they operate.
The Nigerian government officials who insist that only 150 people have been killed are the same people who, in October, stated that President Jonathan had reached a ceasefire agreement with the militants, only to have the defense chief’s own home village fall under attack and control of Boko Haram a few short weeks later, Olorunyomi said. This is also the same government that has been unable to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April, he added. Government officials are consumed with the upcoming election, Olorunyomi said, so most information flowing from the administration is within that context, but the public is more interested in what’s happening with Boko Haram.
While the girls’ kidnappings are no longer foremost in the news, they still appear in the headlines from time to time largely due to the work of #BringBackOurGirls movement for keeping it there, Olorunyomi said. “Over Christmas we had several stories about some of the parents having to go through Christmas without their children,” he added.
Olorunyomi spoke with All Digitocracy in May about the missing girls and the difficulties journalists were experiencing in getting information from the government about the kidnappings. In wake of the latest attacks, that much has not changed, he said.
Right now the main headlines are about the deadly massacre in Baga, a fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Chad in Nigeria’s northeast Borno State.
“(Government officials) have really not offered credible, sensible information that’s convincing and more importantly information that helps to mobilize against this threat that they are facing,” Olorunyomi said.
Journalists are relying on reports from human rights activists, instead.
Images, some fake and some real, have now gone viral in the vacuum created by the government’s silence. While reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been particularly enlightening, Olorunyomi said.
“The images popping up on social media are showing a very different story than what the government is telling,” Olorunyomi said.
With elections pending, Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in efforts to drive President Jonathan from office. But that’s too much of a simplistic view, says Olorunyomi. “This is an insurgency that is probably six or seven years old now,” the editor said. “This is part of a pattern, and part of the jihadists’ overall agenda.”
Listen to the entire conversation about the growing threat, not just in Nigeria, but the whole of the West African region, with Dapo Olorunyomi, managing editor of The Premium Times of Nigeria:
African journalists struggle with issues such as government corruption on a daily basis
By SAMANTHA WATKINS
Point Loma Nazarene University was the only American stop for a group of African journalists who came to share their experiences and learn about journalism in the United States.
It wasn’t because the Christian college has the only journalism program worth visiting: Ebola panic led the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, the other stop, to cancel its events with the visiting journalists.
The African journalists, who are participating in the U.S. State Department’s Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, hail from Ethiopia, Kenya, Botswana, Lesotho, Republic of South Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Swaziland. Two of the initial 14, from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone and Liberia, canceled their trips.
“This is the only university they’re visiting in the entire nation,” Point Loma journalism professor Dean Nelson said to kick off the Nov. 7 event, which was styled as a Q-and-A with other journalism faculty.
African journalists struggle with issues such as government corruption on a daily basis, they said.
Dealing with government officials is challenging because they tend to ignore questions and refuse interviews, said Lerato Matheka, entertainment reporter with Public Eye in Lesotho. “We at times have to publish a story without their comment and sometimes that forces them to respond.”
African journalists face restrictions from the government and bribery to change story angles, and “some journalists take bribes from officials to kill stories and that affects credibility and professionalism,” said Matheka. Editors are also faced with bribery and may cut a story without telling the reporter, he said.
The government funds private media organizations that many of the journalists work for, so they are careful when they publish stories – that sometimes means information may not be accurate, the journalists said.
If a story does not highlight a government official, advertisements that fund the news organization will be cut, and the government will refuse future interviews, Matheka said. “We always have to tone down the exposure of our stories,” which Matheka called “one of the most critical issues.”
Vera Samuel Anyagafu, foreign desk correspondent with The Vanguard in Nigeria, said that “Africans know more about Americans than Americans know about Africans.”
Much of America’s media focuses on events happening inside the United States unless there is a major outbreak abroad, Anyagafu said. “America is the leader for freedom but your media is inward looking.”
In America, “there is ignorance in how Ebola is transmitted,” said Olive Burrows, a reporter from Capital FM in Kenya.
“A lady who treated patients with Ebola took a bike ride and then it’s suddenly huge news with media following her, and even police,” Burrows said, referring to the quarantine of nurse Kaci Hickox in Maine. “It’s a bit ridiculous.” Other African journalists agreed.
The journalists from Sierra Leone and Liberia would have offered an interesting view, as they face different limitations in journalism and have witnessed Ebola firsthand, Burrows said, calling their cancellation “regrettable.”
“They would have given us a wealth of information about how the whole thing was handled and what their thoughts are and what lessons they’ve learned and all that. It would have been amazing to have them on the trip,” Burrows said.
African journalists had many questions about journalism in America. Matheka asked the Point Loma faculty for their “views on social media in relation to time and accuracy.”
“Transparency is the new form – the viewer has to make their own decisions and think things through,” answered journalism professor Stephen Goforth.
“But anyone with a smartphone can now publish something and become a journalist – we call it citizen journalism; it is a common way people find out news,” said Nelson. Citizen journalism often includes information that is less than accurate, but the main point of the story is shared, he said.
Hearing from PLNU’s journalism professors, Burrows shared hope that “if we work at it, we can get up to the same pace as you.
“We imagine America to be this land of milk and honey,” Burrows added. “It’s been good to see some of the imperfections of your system, and it’s just like any other country in the world,” said Burrows.
Point Loma plans to host the African journalists again in a year.
The University of South Florida-St. Petersburg canceled its event with the African journalists “out of upmost caution,” Han Reichgelt, regional vice chancellor of academic affairs, wrote in a letter to journalism school faculty, students and staff, according to the journalism think tank Poynter.
The school knew that none of the 12 who traveled to the U.S. came from Ebola hotspots Sierra Leone or Liberia.
Journalism schools at Syracuse University and The University of Georgia were also supposed to host journalists who had recently been in Liberia, but cancelled their events out of fear of the virus spreading.
Samantha Watkins is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. She reports for thecollegefix.com where this story first appeared. It is republished here with permission.
This week marks five months since nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from a Nigerian boarding school, the majority of them are still missing
By MARY MIHELIC
US media response to the mass kidnapping was initially slow. Once journalists caught on, however, US news organizations reported non-stop on the Nigerian crisis. Social media campaigns were born with the creation of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls as a way to get, and keep, the world’s attention on them until the girls could be brought home. And, some girls were able to return home. None of the girls have been rescued, but some have escaped the clutches of Boko Haram. The group claims the girls were kidnapped because they were receiving a “Western style” education, which Boko Haram opposes.
In the months following the kidnapping, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan hijacked the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, while media attention has tapered off significantly. We’ve returned to virtual radio silence about the majority of missing girls who remain captive.
As an artist I wanted to find a way to keep the spotlight on these girls until they can be rescued.
My current artworks were initially inspired by the courage of the 53 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria who ran for their lives and hid in the landscape when their school was attacked by Boko Haram. They got away while all their classmates who did not run were kidnapped. The art is about that split-second decision when a person decides to run. It is as much about the experience of being human and feeling compassion for these girls as it is about feminism.
The artworks came about when I moved into a new studio space in Brooklyn. I started warming up the space by just putting large paper on the wall and making marks related to landscapes. Since Boko Haram had just kidnapped all those girls, I was thinking about my own experiences growing up and attending an all-girls high school. So I just started drawing girls in my high school uniform hiding in the landscape. When I was done, I stepped back and looked at what I had done. I was surprised to see that the landscape formed a large image of a girl running. My subconscious, or what some people may describe as some force greater than myself, created imagery on that paper telling me to make this series of Running Girls.
With this art I am juxtaposing a schoolgirl running for her life against the freedoms we enjoy in our culture as independent women being able to go for a run – and work – and have a family – and vote – and do anything we really want to. Some of the “running girl” artworks critique feminists themselves for not thinking globally enough about women’s issues. My “running girls” are asking us to do more. It is easy to call yourself a feminist and write a book like “Lean In” or “How to be a Woman.” It is much harder to ‘lean out’ into the world – and think about new ways to help women around the world.
In just one artwork, I can bring together so many of the issues that go along with trying to do something internationally for women. For example, in one of my drawings I show a running girl with a baseball for a breast and a skirt in the shape of home plate. She was made the week Mo’ne Davis was pitching in the Little League World Series (since Mo’ne is the same age as many of these girls and is not afraid to show boys what girls can do). The home plate is symbolic of homemakers and all those who have been displaced from their homes for religious reasons. The same drawing references Joan of Arc and has a sword hidden in it. This is a metaphor for having to hide one’s religious beliefs to survive; it also addresses the contemporary art world’s attitude towards religion. Mixed into the artwork are images of terrorists, girls hiding in the landscape, churches burning, running shoe treadmarks and more. It’s packed with everything that goes along with being a woman everywhere on the planet— from playing with boys to being killed by them.
Thinking about the international issues around feminism led me to the artwork I finished this past week. The problems are so overwhelming because there is so much evil involved. Since President Goodluck Jonathan has been in office, $13 billion dollars has disappeared from the government. He has waited months to take any action against the Boko Haram. The signs point to corruption inside the Nigerian government at every turn. This artwork plays with his name. Where the letter J stands for both Jesus and Jonathon (good and evil) and the text art Goodluck runs down a girls leg. It brings the political environment into the art.
Even with that J, I don’t think of my art as religious. I think of it as relevant, timely and contemporary. I am always surprised when I hear an art dealer comment that the art is too religious for them. My immediate reply is, “Have you read the newspapers lately? How can you get around it?” The last time a dealer told me that, I made the “I am explosive” artwork. This artwork referenced reports that Boko Haram was using some of the young girls as suicide bombers. But the text “I am” also alludes to the Biblical phrase “I am” as it relates to God and thus, religion being explosive. (It subtly hints to the art being too explosive for these dealers.) It references when women get angry and are labelled. And it’s about the explosive moment when the girls who escaped started running. In short, it’s about the entire world exploding over war disguised as religion.
It has been five months since the Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped. I have completed 20 of the 53 artworks so far; 53 being the number of girls who managed to escape in Chibok. No matter how much art I make though, I am humbled by the heroism of the real feminists who are all the young girls around the world risking their lives to get educated.
Mary Mihelic received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from Parsons the New School for Design in 2006. Since then, her artworks have been shown in New York City, Chicago, L.A., Key West, Vermont and D.C. Prior to getting her M.F.A., Mary studied art extensively at the Museum School in Boston and at the SMFA’s programs in Venice, Italy. Her studio is in Brooklyn. An excerpt from her artist statement reads, “In a time when people are leaving churches in record numbers and the historic relationship between religion and the art world has washed away, I make art about those things that bring us to our knees and humble us in 2014: the power of the ocean, the meltdown of a nuclear power plant, the courage of 53 school girls running for their lives…” She is fascinated by the way the imagination makes God a reality in the form of faith. This piece was originally published by The Broad Side.
The Nigerian Army’s current crackdown on the country’s news media is ‘child’s play’ compared to past incursions on press freedoms
By Eyobong Ita
Nigerian soldiers are doing great.
No pun intended.
Well, maybe a little.
Forget that the Nigerian Army is yet to bomb the living daylight out of Boko Haram terrorists. That is just a matter of time, I guess. Forget also that more than 250 abducted Chibok girls are yet to be rescued, or that the soldiers made no effort to confront the terrorists allegedly when they were heading to the Chibok school to abduct those students. And forget that 20 suspected Boko Haram gunmen raided a village in Borno state, killing 15, just this week.
None of that should suggest that the Nigerian Army cannot dismantle Boko Haram when they are ready. I mean, just look at how well the Nigerian Army is manhandling the Nigerian press; acknowledge for once that the soldiers are great at seizing copies of Nigerian newspapers and making sure delivery vans cannot get to their destinations. Remember how recently they made sure The Nation, Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers neither got delivered by air nor by land.
The skill they apply in seizing and destroying those publications is simply off the hook.
I think every Nigerian knows why they targeted those publications. Just look at their names: The Nation. Which nation? Only Nigeria is a nation, so why call a newspaper The Nation? The other is called Leadership. Who are they leading? PDP, APC or any of the other political parties in Nigeria? Or are they leading The Nation, This Day, Punch, Vanguard or even The Drum newspapers? Well, I’ll let you grapple over that. The other one calls itself Daily Trust. Come on, the Nigerian Army cannot be trusted to cover its own behind when Boko Haram runs over them. So why wouldn’t the Army get mad at the newspaper over its “fake name?”
So far, the Nigerian press is not a match for the powerful Nigerian Army. They beat up the Nigerian press as badly as the Netherlands dismantled Spain at the ongoing World Cup Soccer games. Whoever said the pen is mightier than the gun apparently didn’t see the great Nigerian Army in action against the seemingly defenseless Nigerian Press.
There are a couple of problems with this narrative, though.
In their rush to flex their muscles (or guns) against the Nigerian press, the Nigerian Army may have overlooked a couple of very sensitive points.
One. When they successfully seized and destroyed copies of the affected Nigerian newspapers, did the Nigerian Army also shut down the internet to make sure none of those “anti-national security” stories were online for the entire world to read?
OMG! They forgot to shut down the web? That means those stories still got read. Ouch!
Two. Seizure of Nigerian newspapers and harassment of the Nigerian media is an act pulled from an old, familiar playbook. Military dictators Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon called it Decree No. 2. In the 1980s, the dictators used the presidential edict to send journalists Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor to jail, but that didn’t silence the Nigerian press. Rather, Buhari and Idiagbon were silenced by another dictator named Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, aka IBB. IBB, who ousted Buhari in a coup and his successor, Sani Abacha, obviously did not need any decree to go after the Nigerian press and journalists who were not in their camps. Abacha, for sure, unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror on independent-minded media in Nigeria.
To be fair to IBB, he has never been charged with any crime and is living comfortably in Nigeria. That might be true, except for one major incident that happened on IBB’s watch in 1986: Dele Giwa, the charismatic founding editor of Newswatch magazine, was murdered with a letter bomb. Nobody was arrested for that historic tragedy. However, “Who Killed Dele Giwa?” is a question that will likely follow IBB to his grave.
IBB was such a charming and crafty “politician” that as an army general he tricked Nigerians into addressing him as president, even when he was not democratically elected. Nigerians even called him Maradona – after the legendary world-renowned Argentine footballer – because of his skill to dribble Nigerians around. Eventually though, pressure from the Nigerian press and other sectors forced IBB to dribble himself out of power.
Abacha, who later seized power in a military coup, was more ruthless with the Nigerian press. Unlike IBB, he was not charming, and probably didn’t care. What’s charm got to do with it, anyway? Abacha gave Nigerian journalists grief. During his tenure, newspapers were confiscated with impunity, some media houses were banned, many journalists were jailed without trial, some disappeared with no trail while others were murdered in cold blood.
Defiant, Nigerian journalists went underground and kept publishing.
Guerrilla journalism was born.
Many of the haunted journalists no longer had access to their newsrooms, yet they kept publishing from undisclosed locations. Delivery vans could no longer function, yet their publications remained in circulation. Eventually, Abacha died and went to hell, or wherever such dictators go.
What the Nigerian Army is doing now is child’s play. If the Nigerian press could fight dictators in army uniform to a standstill in the 1980s and 1990s when the internet was not in play, how long do you think the Nigerian Army can successfully seize media publications today? What if the targeted media decide to go underground and continue publishing, guerrilla style? What can they really do about the web sites and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatapp, Viber, Glide and a host of others?
Still think the Nigerian Army can run over the Nigerian press?
Rather than go after the press, how about hunting down those really trying to make the powerful Nigerian Army look weak?
Imagine a survivor of Boko Haram’s attack on the town of Bama in Northern Nigeria saying that Nigerian soldiers fled when they sighted Boko Haram? How about Nigerian soldiers shooting their own commander after they were ordered into a Boko Haram hideout that killed a dozen of their comrades? And a Nigerian soldier who opened his big mouth to say that the soldiers designated to fight Boko Haram are not well-equipped for that task. As if those embarrassments aren’t enough, the United States and other diplomats are claiming the Nigerian Army is afraid of Boko Haram.
Look, as much as I admire the Nigerian Army’s skill (or enthusiasm) in confiscating copies of newspapers that rub them the wrong way, it is misplaced aggression. Period.
The Army’s harassment of the Nigerian press begs this simple question: Why not pick on someone your size? I mean, how about Boko Haram, for crying out loud!
This week All Digitocracy’s Afi Scruggs and Tracie Powell appeared on the Source Radio Network to discuss the mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Although many US news organizations have been strangely quiet about the ongoing crisis, the girls are still being held in captivity and more violence has erupted in the oil-rich nation.Also this week, 80 US troops were deployed to search for the abducted girls in nearby Chad.
Listeners asked us whether the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is real; about Boko Haram, the terrorist group responsible for the kidnappings; recent violence in Nigeria, and what US citizens can do to help.
Take a listen:
Conservatives in the US are mocking the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign that went viral on social media two weeks ago. But enthusiasm for the hashtag has increased, not waned.
Controversial pundit Anne Coulter was scorched for her sarcastic take on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Her “hashtag contribution to world affairs” kindled a flame war of comments and Photoshopped responses. Fox News contributor George Will complained that those tweeting the hashtag are doing so only to feel good about themselves. “Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, ‘Uh-oh Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior?’” Will opined.
Despite the naysayers – or in light of them – the BBC reports #BringBackOurGirls has been retweeted 3.3 million times since it was first used in Nigeria on April 23. The hashtag is mostly used by Twitter users in that country and the United States. You can track popularity of the hashtag by going to www.topsy.com, and inputting #BringBackOurGirls.
While tweeting #BringBackOurGirls has amped up awareness and increased pressure on the Nigerian government, Will is right about one thing: A hashtag alone won’t win the girls’ freedom from their Boka Haram captors, nor will it prevent another mass kidnapping of schoolchildren from happening again.
According to A World At School.org, “30 countries have experienced a pattern of intentional attacks on education in the last five years. The organization, which champions education for every child, states that schools and universities have been bombed and burned, and students, teachers and school officials killed, maimed, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups, and extorted precisely because of their connection to education.” Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Pakistani Taliban when she was 15 just because she wanted an education, is perhaps the best-known case. That was before the current abductions in Nigeria took place last month, but schoolchildren have also been kidnapped in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately they are used as weapons of war, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, which advocate for the protection of students, teachers, schools, and universities in conflict in countries affected by conflict.
Global interest in the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls is intense, so it is understandable that many people feel helpless and want to take action, even if it’s only tweeting a hashtag. Here are a few other things you can do to make a difference:
- Donate to the Nigerian Safe Schools Fund. The Fund was launched this month by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School.
- Join The Global Education First Initiative Google Hangout. Participants will discuss how and why we all need to advocate for education everywhere. Friday, May 16th, at 12:30 p.m. http://bit.ly/1jaFSqK
- Spread the Word: Along with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, tweet these links:
- .@educationenvoy delivered #BringBackOurGirls petition to Nigerian Pres @wef who supports #safeschools. You can too bit.ly/1g1CyxH
- Never again can we let this happen to our children. Help invest in #SafeSchools bit.ly/1g1CyxH #BringBackOurGirls #WEFAfrica
- Schools should be safe places for children to learn. Invest in #SafeSchools in #Nigeria bit.ly/1g1CyxH #BringBackOurGirls
- Pres Jonathan supports #SafeSchools for girls at #WEFAfrica Add your support http://bit.ly/QlG6ye #BringBackOurGirls
- Support groups that support girls’ education. These include The Malala Fund, the official organization led by Malala Yousafzai, which is focused on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education.
- Tweet the president and your members of congress. Tell congress and President Barack Obama to keep pressuring the Nigerian government to continue searching for the girls, provide additional protection to schools and colleges at risk of attack, and take steps to mitigate the impact of attacks on children’s right to education.
- Sign the petition. Show support for families of the abducted girls and encourage efforts to rescue them.
- Stay Informed. The Global Coalition documents attacks on schools, teachers and students. They have a video and maintain an interactive map of these types of targeted attacks.
- Keep following #BringBackOurGirls on social media. Keep up with news reports on this story as well as calls to action. Also follow our posts here on All Digitocracy.org.
Afi Scruggs contributed to this report.
According to weekend news reports, the Governor of Borno State said that there had been sightings of the missing girls of Chibok, but three Nigerian journalists disputed the veracity of the reports on Monday.
“The authorities, either from Borno State or federal authorities, have not been very forthcoming. To that extent, I don’t think that anybody’s taking this new information with any seriousness,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, Managing Editor of The Premium Times of Nigeria and founder of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Reporting. “This also speaks to the difficulty local journalists are having covering this very difficult story.”
Terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 schoolgirls a month ago; the exact number remains unconfirmed. While international media began reporting the story two weeks ago, Nigerian journalists, like Olorunyomi, have been on the ground from the beginning.
Along with Olorunyomi, Nosa Igiebor, Managing Editor of Nigeria’s Tell Magazine, and writer Benjamin Edokpayi, a freelance journalist who has reported in Nigeria and the US, spoke exclusively with All Digitocracy via Google Hangout Monday morning about the month-long crisis in their West African nation.
The three journalists said limited resources, proximity to Chibok, and flawed information from government officials have hindered their coverage over the past month. They also discuss the precautions they have to take in covering a story that is receiving international attention but is deeply personal for them. “We’re journalists, but we’re also Nigerian,” Igiebor said.
Despite their challenges, the journalists said they are still better at reporting the story than international news correspondents because Nigerian reporters are more familiar with the terrain and the people, and because international news organizations have cut back and eliminated so many of their foreign news bureaus.
“They have the reach and the resources that we do not,” Igiebor said of international news organizations. “But we know this story better because it has been going on for so long. This is the first time much of the international press, the international community, has heard about Boko Haram. We’ve been hearing about them, and seeing what they do, for a long time now. Boko Haram’s actions, the way they work, are not new to us.” Tell Magazine has two reporters on the story, Igiebor said.
Edokpayi, former Weekend Editor of The Vacaville Reporter and Managing Editor of The Dixon Tribune, both newspapers in California, added that the story is difficult to cover because many international news agencies have eliminated their Africa-based correspondents. “A couple of decades ago you had journalists from all the major outlets here, and they didn’t come from the US or someplace else, they were here, all over Africa,” said Edokpayi, who is Nigerian and American. “The Los Angeles Times had a correspondent in Dakaar and Voice of America had a correspondent here (Lagos, the financial capital of Nigeria).
“Journalists did not have to scramble to get to where the story was happening, they were already here,” Edokpayi added. “That’s the biggest difference that I now see in media coverage. Now everybody’s scrambling.”
Below is the raw video of All Digitocracy’s conversation with the journalists:
A power outage in Nigeria interrupted our talk with the three journalists. The conclusion is below:
Below is a round-up of today’s news reports about the abduction compiled by All Digitocracy contributor Afie Scruggs:
A Boko Haram video includes an offer to exchange the kidnapped school girls for prisoners. The film, released by Agence France Presse, reportedly shows about 100 of the girls wearing full-length hijab and reciting prayers in Arabic. The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls had been “liberated” and that Christian girls had been converted to Islam. The group of missing girls includes Christians and Muslims.
Another African nation has joined calls to release the girls. In Zambia, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba said the abduction was unacceptable because the world is now promoting the emancipation of a girl child. Zambia is in east Africa, about 2,220 miles from Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the exact number of girls kidnapped is still unclear. An Associated Press interview with Sarah Lawan, who escaped from the captors, says more than 300 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in northeast Nigeria. Earliest reports said 234 girls were missing.
According to the BBC, the governor of Borno State in Nigeria said the girls had been seen. Governor Kashim Shettima said he shared information with Nigerian military officials. The girls were taken from Chibok, a village in Borno State.