Nigerian soldiers interfered with the distribution of several of the country’s major newspapers June 6 amid criticism over the military’s failure to free nearly 300 schoolgirls captured by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The newspapers targeted included The Daily Trust, The Nation, Vanguard, Punch, and The Leadership, International Business Times reported.
Trucks carrying copies of newspapers were stopped and searched and at least one vendor selling daily newspapers was beaten, Nigeria’s The Nation newspaper reported. In other parts of the country, vendors were ordered not to display the newspaper.
Armed soldiers entered the distribution center of The Daily Trust in the capital Abuja, where they searched each copy of the newspaper’s Saturday edition for “security risk material,” the newspaper said. Soldiers also prevented delivery of the newspaper from a distribution center in the northern city of Kano.
This government action follows a series of high-profile attacks by Boko Haram against Nigerian civilians, including the kidnapping of female students. Boko Haram has previously claimed responsibility for deadly attacks and harassment carried out against journalists. Nigeria’s military has been widely condemned for failing to halt the attacks.
While the Nigerian military has confirmed the newspaper searches occurred, they deny that the efforts are aimed at censoring local media. Instead, defense spokesman Chris Olukolade called the search a “routine security action” in response to intelligence that newspapers were involved in distributing information that posed a security risk, according to the country’s Channels television station.
In a press conference June 7, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan denied that the federal government ordered the military to target the newspapers in retaliation for content published and insisted that the government was committed to supporting free speech, Nigeria’s PM News said.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors condemned the crackdown, saying it had caused the newspapers to suffer significant financial losses. “The media do not bear arms, but rather we bear information, which shed light on darkness, no matter how seemingly impenetrable the darkness is,” said a statement from the group, published by The Cable news site.