Oct. 16 (GIN) – A Nigerian High Court has awarded a local journalist over half a million dollars for a brutal beating he received while covering a protest at a local bank.
The journalist, Desmond Utomwen, had been covering a peaceful rally outside of the Guaranty Trust Bank in Abuja where protestors charged that fraudulent ATM withdrawals were being made by bank staff.
Utomwen, a senior reporter with TheNews magazine, was on assignment when he was attacked by police and bank staff, his equipment was taken, and he was hit with gun butts until he lost consciousness.
He sued the police and his case languished for two years and 10 months. In the decision finally announced this month, the sitting judge agreed the actions of the defendants amounted to a violation of the reporter’s right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to own property and the right to freedom of the press and expression as enshrined in the 1999 constitution.
Utomwen’s victory represents the largest award for any journalist in Nigeria’s 52-year history as an independent nation and sets a clear precedent for the country’s beleaguered press.