Amnesty International has criticized the rising crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to protest in Nigeria, calling on authorities to cease what the group calls widespread arrest of journalists and dissenters.
In a statement on Thursday, the human rights watchdog urged Abuja to honor its commitments under international law to respect people's right to dissent or protest without fear of intimidation or arrest.
“The escalation in the intimidation of journalists and bloggers over recent months seems to be little more than a barefaced attempt by the Nigerian government to muzzle dissenting voices in the country,” the statement quoted Makmid Kamara, interim director at Amnesty International Nigeria, as saying.
The statement cited as examples the Sept. 6 blocking of a protest by the #BringBackOurGirls movement to seek better government response to the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in 2014, as well as the forceful repression of Shia protests demanding the release of their leader Ibrahim el-Zakzaky on Sept. 22.
According to the group, dozens of secessionist Igbo protesters are also being detained without charge.
“Alongside the security forces’ violent assault on peaceful protesters, this crackdown constitutes a growing threat to human rights enshrined in international law and the Nigerian constitution,” it added.
Amnesty International urged the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to bring an end to detentions without trial, intimidation and harassment of journalists and bloggers, and the security forces’ alleged excessive use of force to disperse peaceful protests.