This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on January 12, 2017.
Journalists who went to the Federal High Court in Abuja to cover a case in which Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the pro-separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) is being tried for treason, found themselves initially barred from entering the courtroom.
Security officers told reporters who had been assigned to cover the hearing on January 10, 2017, that the presiding judge, Justice Binta Nyako, has ordered that journalists be barred from the courtroom. They claimed the judge had decided that prosecution witnesses would be shielded, hence the ban on reporters, except those with Federal High Court tags.
According to reports, confusion broke out when security officers attempted to enforce the ban. The journalists protested that they were not given prior notice. Others complained that their application for badges have not been processed after three years.
The protests reportedly created some confusion, forcing the court authorities to back down. However, the reporters were in for another unpleasant surprise, as they were forced to follow proceedings from behind a screen.
The MFWA calls on the judicial authorities in Nigeria to communicate to the media and in a timely manner procedures and conditions for covering cases to avoid squabbles between the media and the authorities at the courts. We also call on the authorities to fast-track the issuance of badges to journalists who have applied for them to enable them access the courts for coverage of cases.