Boko Haram has released a video threatening to attack a dozen media houses, for what they consider a misrepresentation of the group’s activity, biased pro-government views and an offensive stance against Islam.
The 18-minute long video, released on 8 July, threatens local outlets such as Punch, Daily Sun, Vanguard and The Guardian, but also French RFI and New-York based digital medium SaharaReporters.
The video also said it would attack Nigerian state schools in response to the government’s arrests of Boko Haram wives and children. Boko Haram has killed opposing journalists in the past, and bombed local daily ThisDay’s offices in Abuja in 2012 to retaliate against the paper’s unfavourable coverage of the group’s activities.
The conflict in north-eastern Nigeria is also a war of information. It is difficult to access breaking news on the ground through means other than official government sources, who often report of army prowess in liberating towns from Boko Haram and raiding militant camps.
Nigerian papers often base their reporting on these press releases, which has led to strong criticism from Boko Haram spokespeople. Local-based human rights groups and non-government organisations, notably Amnesty International, also attempt to provide information, but their scope is limited.
At the same time, since Boko Haram’s allegiance pledge to the Islamic State in 2015, the group’s communications strategy has tended towards the sophistication of its parent organisation, but the haphazard nature of updates appears to point towards lower levels of coordination and resources at the West-African subsidiary.