A Nigerian journalist was awarded more than half a million dollars after winning a court case. Desmond Utomwen was brutally assaulted Dec. 11, 2009 while covering a peaceful rally at the Guarantee Trust Bank in Abuja, where customers were protesting fraudulent ATM withdrawals said to be made by bank officials, according to a CPJ report.
Utomwen, a senior reporter for PM News Nigeria was beaten by police and bank staff members, CPJ reported. He was battered unconscious with gun butts, and his equipment was confiscated, reported Amsterdam News. Utomwen was also transported in a police vehicle and detained for several hours without medical treatment, PM News Nigeria said.
Utomwen sued the police and the bank nearly three years ago, PM News Nigeria reported. An Abuja High Court judge announced this year on Oct. 4 that the incident violated several Constitutional rights including: freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment, freedom of the press and expression, and the right to own property, CPJ wrote.
Utomwen echoed that he was fighting for justice for the journalism world not for the money, CPJ reported.
"If a journalist can't fight for his own right, then he has no responsibility to fight for others," Utomwen said in a CPJ article.
In Nigeria’s 52-year history as an independent nation, this is the largest award for a journalist and is a clear example for nation’s struggling press freedom, CPJ reported.
Guarantee Trust Bank spokesman Lashe Osoba told CPJ that the bank would appeal the decision.
By Nina Pantic.