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Outrage in Nigeria after peaceful protesters shot at: Live news | Nigeria

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Unrest spreads in Lagos a day after witnesses and rights groups say soldiers opened fire at a crowd protesting against police brutality.

  • Unrest spread in Lagos on Wednesday, a day after witnesses and rights groups said army soldiers opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protesters defying a curfew during demonstrations against police brutality in Nigeria’s largest city.
  • Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said one person has died at a hospital following the shooting, but it was unclear if the person was a protester. He said 30 people were injured.
  • Amnesty International said it was investigating “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters” at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos.
  • Videos showed men in uniform opening fire on demonstrators in Lagos. Nigeria’s military, however, denied responsibility for the Lekki shootings, posting a tweet that labelled several reports as fake news.

Here are the latest updates:

14:00 GMT – Authorities turned peaceful protest into shooting spree: HRW

Human Rights Watch has called on authorities to withdraw soldiers from the streets and hold accountable those responsible for using forces against peaceful demonstrations.

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The authorities should immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

13:45 – Lagos governor says he ordered probe into army actions

In a televised address, the Lagos governor said he has ordered an investigation into the actions of the military at Lekki plaza, suggesting the army may be responsible for the shooting.

“This is with a view to taking this up with a higher command of the military and to seek the intervention of Mr. President in his capacity as a commander in chief to unravel the sequence of events that happened yesterday night,” he said.

13:37 GMT –  UN chief calls for end to police brutality

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to what he called “brutality” by police in Nigeria.

In a statement, Guterres’s spokesman said the UN chief “urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence”.

13:30 GMT – Top EU envoy condemns Nigeria protest killings

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has condemned the killing of protesters and has called for justice.

“It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured during the ongoing protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria,” he said.

“It is crucial that those responsible of abuses be brought to justice and held accountable.”

13:15 GMT – Nigerian TV station torched in Lagos: Director

A major Nigerian TV station linked to one of the ruling party’s top politicians has been set ablaze.

TVC managing director Andrew Hanlon told AFP news agency that “hoodlums” had attacked the station with petrol bombs and that its main building was an “inferno”.



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‘Chilling’ crackdown on dissent in Vietnam ahead of key congress | Vietnam News

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As Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party gears up for its most important meeting in years, its leadership has presided over an intensified crackdown on dissent, according to rights groups, activists and data collated by Reuters news agency.

A record number of political prisoners, longer jail terms, and increased harassment of activists in recent years have contributed to the crackdown ahead of this week’s Communist Party congress, a gathering to determine national leadership and policy that takes place once every five years.

The crackdown has left some international human rights groups and legislators questioning whether Vietnam has breached the spirit of trade agreements with Western countries – accords that have helped propel the country to a position of economic strength in Southeast Asia.

“I have been summoned by the police several times since December 9, 2020,” said Nguyen Quang A, a veteran activist in Hanoi, declining to detail the circumstances saying he was subject to an ongoing investigation. He told Reuters Vietnam’s security ministry had in recent weeks rounded up other government critics without saying why, citing his contacts with activists.

“They [the police] summon them and find reasons to convict them under those very fuzzy articles of criminal law. It completely violates the law but they use it very regularly,” said Quang A. “I’ve told them they can’t shut me up.”

Vietnam’s foreign ministry, which handles inquiries from foreign media, did not respond to Reuters’s request for comment on activist detentions.

‘Anti-state’

Despite reforms and increasing openness to social change, the Communist Party of Vietnam, led by 76-year-old Nguyen Phu Trong, tolerates little criticism and controls domestic media tightly.

Vietnam drew international condemnation this month when it sentenced three freelance journalists known for criticism of the government to between 11 and 15 years in prison, finding them guilty of spreading anti-state propaganda.

Journalists Pham Chi Dung, right, Le Huu Minh Tuan, centre, and Nguyen Tuong Thuy, left, stand between police during their trial at a court in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam January 5, 2021 [VNA/Handout via Reuters]

The country’s constitution says it protects “freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, access to information, to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations”.

In reality, public criticism of the party is not tolerated, and groups which promote democratisation are targeted by the authorities in a battle playing out online on platforms like Facebook, Vietnam’s premier platform for both e-commerce and dissent.

A Reuters tally based on state media reports found 280 people were arrested for “anti-state” activities over the five years since the last party congress: 260 were convicted, many being sentenced to more than 10 years in jail. In the five years leading up to the 2016 congress, there were 68 arrests and 58 convictions.

‘Force 47’

Last year, Amnesty International said it had recorded the most “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam since it began publishing figures in 1996 – 170, close to double the 97 recorded in 2018. Of the 170, some 70 were arrested for online activism, Amnesty said.

In late 2017, Vietnam unveiled a 10,000-strong military cyber-unit, Force 47, to counter what it said were “wrong” views on the internet. According to rights groups, the unit also recruits volunteers online to target dissidents and activists.

Reuters reviewed dozens of posts across multiple Facebook groups and pages from December and January that claimed links with Force 47. Many attacked prominent activists, including Quang A, accused by one group of creating anti-state propaganda.

A woman wearing a traditional conical hat walks past a poster for the upcoming 13th national congress of Vietnam Communist Party on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 18, 2021 [Kham/Reuters]

Some group moderators were dressed in military uniform in their profile photos while others ran pages for official local branches of Communist Party organisations.

Last November, Vietnam threatened to shut Facebook down if it did not toughen rules on local political content on the platform.

Facebook’s local servers were taken offline by the government earlier last year until it agreed to significantly increase policing of “anti-state” posts by local users, a request with which Facebook previously said it complied.

A Facebook spokesman said the company faced “additional pressure” from Vietnam to restrict content last year.

‘Driver’s seat’

For some, the crackdown has a connection with fluctuations in global trade ties with Vietnam.

“During the [former US President Barack] Obama administration, pressure on rights connected with TPP [trade] negotiations helped the cause of human rights activists and political dissidents,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The early visit of Prime Minister [Nguyen Xuan] Phuc in 2017 to the Trump White House saw human rights completely dropped from the agenda,” he said.

Robertson said trade tensions with China have also left Vietnam “in the driver’s seat” as US and European Union companies look for alternative supply chains, helping the Vietnamese economy thrive.

“The EU had an important opportunity to make real changes through the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement,” said Robertson, referring to a pact that has been a boon for Vietnam. Instead, he said, the EU “fell short, settling for vague promises … instead of substantive changes”.

EU officials did not immediately respond to Reuters’s request for comment.

After the jailing of the three journalists earlier this month, the United Nations human rights office said: “Coming just weeks ahead [of the party congress], the convictions and long sentences are not only a blatant suppression of independent journalism but also a clear attempt to create a chilling effect among those willing to criticise the government.”

The United States described the sentences as the “latest in a troubling and accelerating trend of arrests and convictions of Vietnamese citizens exercising rights enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution”.



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