Nigerian Journalists Are Still Endangered 36 Years After Dele Giwa

October 19, 2022

36 years ago, on October 19, 1986, a messenger delivered a mail package to a residence in Ikeja, Lagos State. The guard at the gate passed the parcel to Billy Giwa who then passed it on to the recipient named on the package, Dele Giwa, a journalist and co-founder of Newswatch. 

When Dele Giwa opened the package, it exploded and he died shortly after.

[Image source: Guardian]

Giwa’s unfortunate assassination — still unresolved — has become a rallying point for press freedom in Nigeria, but we first have to understand his impact.

Who was Dele Giwa?

Dele Giwa was born in Ile-Ife, Osun State, on March 16, 1947. He earned an English degree at Brooklyn College in 1977 and a Master’s in Public Communication from Fordham University. In 1980, Giwa joined ‘The Sunday Concord’.

[Image source: Biographical Legacy and Research Foundation]

Giwa was imprisoned for two weeks in 1983 for his work as the editor of ‘The Sunday Concord’ newspaper. In 1984, with other journalists interested in pursuing a high standard of journalism in Nigeria, he founded ‘Newswatch’ and became the magazine’s first editor-in-chief. The magazine redefined investigative journalism in Nigeria and grew to have a circulation of around 50,000 readers.

By 1986, ‘Newswatch’ had begun criticising the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. When Dele Giwa was assassinated on October 19, 1986, he had just recently written an article on the second-tier foreign exchange market (SFEM), a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy introduced at the time. In the piece, Giwa said if SFEM failed, the people would stone “their leaders in the streets.” Two days before his assassination, he was questioned by officials of the State Security Services (SSS) on the article, and he replied by saying that nothing about his article was offensive. The rest, they say, is history.

 What’s the state of press freedom in Nigeria after 36 years?

It’s sad to note that not much has changed about press freedom in Nigeria since  Giwa’s death. In 2021, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) reported that at least 120 journalists had been detained in the country and that many others had fled abroad to avoid harassment, threats, and death. 

The events that played out during the EndSARS protests of 2020 showed how much behind Nigeria is still suffering from a lack of press freedom.

[Image source: Stephen Tayo]

On October 24, 2020, police officers shot Pelumi Onifade, a 20-year-old journalist, while he was covering a protest. Despite wearing a professional jacket, the officials arrested the injured journalist and he died in custody. 

Ope Adetayo, a journalist who covered the 2021 EndSARS memorial for Al Jazeera, told The Republic of the threats he continued to face days after the event. Adetayo’s report claimed that many young Nigerians were still subjected to police brutality despite the 2020 #EndSARS protests and that the protesters’ demands for reforms had not been met.

After publishing the story, the journalist received his first hate mail from an unknown sender who copied several editors of Al Jazeera and warned him against painting Nigeria in a bad light. Although he ignored the email, Adetayo said he was scared and spent time after “constantly looking over his shoulders.”

Nigeria ranked 129 out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a decline from 120 and 115 in 2021 and 2020 respectively. RSF also named Nigeria one of “West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult” countries for journalists to work in. 

Predictably, the Nigerian government publicly criticised this index, claiming that the Nigerian press is both empowered and free. This is a claim that many journalists in Nigeria have disputed, pointing to several recent examples of the government attempting to clamp down on the media and press.

[Image source: Daily Post Nigeria]

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The key to enjoying full press freedom in Nigeria is a government that’s not tyrannical and a press that’ll fight for its rights. Nigeria needs more policies that would protect journalists from harassment in their line of duty. 

As the Vice President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ronke Samo, rightly said “While we urge our colleagues to be discreet and professional in performing their duties so as to avoid possible pitfalls and banana peels, we equally urge the state to urgently formulate policies and put in place frameworks that would protect the press from this emerging threat from advancement in digital technology. This should be done in a most patriotic manner because of the fact that a truly free press will bring progress, fairness, justice, and true freedom to our society.”

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

December 6, 2022

After keeping a track record of constantly dodging important campaign events the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, did the one thing we thought he could never do — attend a presidential town hall… …in Chatham House, London. Nigerans were confused when they heard the news on December 5, 2022, and they wondered […]

May 2, 2022

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for and importance of virtual services. Everything from shopping, to work and even medical services shifted to the digital space. With increasing digital adoption globally and in Africa specifically, telemedicine services are becoming even more essential to the well-being of those who would normally not have […]


Now on Zikoko

Recommended Quizzes

April 3, 2020

While the rest of the world loves to treat our continent like a country, there are actually 54 African countries. So, in a bid to test your knowledge (and educate you), we’ve created a quiz to see how many of their capitals you can correctly name. Go ahead:

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

December 5, 2019

We already tried to guess how much you have in your account and your current net worth, and we think we did a pretty great job (keep any complaints to yourself). Now, we’re going to try and guess your monthly salary based on your relationship with money. Oya, take the quiz: 11 Timed Quizzes For […]

November 7, 2019

These days, everyone is always talking about how much sex they’re getting, or how little sex they’re getting, or how disgusting sex is etc. There’s just so much talk about sex, it’s almost impossible to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. In anticipation of our new series about the sex lives of young […]

December 29, 2021

A new year is right around the corner. Before we go into 2022, enjoy some of our top quizzes from this year. 1. QUIZ: Only Nigerian Gen Z’ers Can Make It To The End Of This Musicians Quiz Forget about your age. If you can make it to the end of this quiz, you’re definitely […]

November 27, 2019

Do you have a face that could make angels jealous, or should you really be walking around with a nylon bag over your head so you don’t scare children? Well, this quiz is here to answer that by telling you exactly how good-looking you are. Take and find out: 11 Quizzes For People Who Aren’t […]

More from Citizen

February 3, 2023

This week’s Abroad Life subject is Nigerian diaspora Twitter influencer, Oluomo of Derby, who is the founder of NIUKCommunity, a diasporan community with over 9,500 members. He tells us about his ‘japa’ journey, his inspiration to build a Nigerian “home away from home” and how he’s enlightening his community on the 2023 elections.


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

September 13, 2022
Vs The World is a Zikoko original video series that follows best friends Astor and Hassan as they take on the world.
August 23, 2022
Zikoko Ships is a Zikoko Original series where we invite two people who share a relationship to play the Zikoko card games
December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.