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.