Free press silenced as US takes over Nigerian propaganda

A national newspaper in Nigeria said that it was prevented from distributing thousands of copies of its Saturday issue by soldiers, just days after it ran an article that accused generals of using an army barracks for personal use. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/world/africa/nigerian-newspaper-weekly-trust-says-army-blocked-distribution.html?ref=world

Weekly Trust, a newspaper based in Abuja, the capital, said soldiers blocked a number of its worksites.

“The soldiers, who were fully armed, insisted on carrying out the ‘order from above’ to flip through each of the several thousand copies of Weekly Trust in search of alleged ‘security risk material,’ ” the newspaper said.

The owner of the newspaper, Media Trust Ltd., said distribution was blocked at sites in Abuja, Kano and Maiduguri.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group based in New York, said that the Nigerian government had confiscated or destroyed copies of at least four other major newspapers in recent days.

“Denying Nigerians access to news and information sows the seeds of rumors and distrust,” Sue Valentine, the Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Friday on the group’s website.

The army acknowledged that it had searched the newspaper’s vehicles, but said that it was conducting a routine security action.

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The United States is financing a new 24-hour satellite TV channel in northern Nigeria meant to counter insurgencies by the militants and other dissident groups in the region, the New York Times reported on Friday. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/06/us-nigeria-usa-television-idUSKBN0EH2H320140606

A U.S. official confirmed the project was under way but did not give full details. The official said the United States would “support Nigerian efforts to provide an attractive alternative to the messaging of violent extremists.”

The project is a result of discussions with Nigeria dating back to late 2012 on ways to cooperate against Boko Haram and the content of the channel will be produced by Nigerians in Nigeria, the official said.

The United States has in recent months increased its collaboration with Lagos in response to violence from Boko Haram, including surveillance and communications help after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April.

The Times said the TV channel, which is not yet broadcasting but is near to completion, is financed by the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and is expected to cost about $6 million.

The project is run in Nigeria by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based government contractor that has managed media programs sponsored by the State Department in Yemen and Pakistan meant to encourage youth participation in politics and counter Islamist extremism, it said.

The paper quoted foreign policy experts saying the project faced several challenges in a region with low levels of infrastructure, public services, literacy and security. Access to electricity is limited and few people own televisions.

In addition to the broadcasts, the Times said the project would provide training to journalists in the region.

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