Three journalists were attacked while covering the mob action at Sotitobire Miracle Centre, Akure, Ondo state, on Wednesday.
An angry mob had set the church on fire over reports that the corpse of a missing one-year-old child was exhumed from the altar of the church.
Femi Joseph, spokesman of the state police command, later described the report as fake news.
But the confusion which ensued after the news broke led to the burning of the church, destruction of a police van and the killing of a policeman.
Three of the journalists covering the incident were attacked. They are: Tosin Ajuwon of SaharaReporters; Temitope Adedeji of the BBC, Lagos; and Eniola Olurankise of Breeze FM 91.9 Akure.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Ajuwon narrated how they were attacked. He said some policemen joined members of the church to assault them.
“I fell another victim of a brutal attack in the hands of ‘some armed thugs’ in Police Uniform today while covering the mysterious incident that occurred at the popular Akure Church, Sotitobire Miracle Centre, where a one-year-old boy had been declared missing for over a month now,” he wrote.
“I was caught in the web while trying to rescue a colleague, Temitope Adedeji, who is affiliated with the BBC, Lagos. He was being mobbed by the angry members of the church under the tense atmosphere when we had to quickly rush in and intervene.
“Myself, and Eniola Olurankise of the Breeze Fm 91.9 Fm Akure, were beaten mercilessly as the disgruntled Policemen, whose job is to protect us, coordinated the attack. The most disappointing of all was how these officers from the B Division Police Station Oke Aro, Akure, also joined the church members in beating and assaulting us.
“They used planks, iron rods, stones to ‘teach the lessons of our lives’, as one of them had loudly said while supervising the beating. The three of us were attacked, dehumanised as the clothes of Eniola from Breeze Fm was even torn into shred while one of the policemen threatened to “waste us” on the spot if we ‘dare run our mouths’. I witnessed armed Policemen shooting at the crowd like battling a robbers in a gun duel.
“One of the officers cut my ear, as he dipped his finger to injure me on my cheek. I saw hell in its reality as they made attempt to even set us ablaze! My eyes glasses were smashed on the floor and destroyed right in my presence and I battled with my sight for over two hours.
“We were able to escape from the scene by whiskers after the beating even as one of the Policemen stole ours phones but was later retrieved by a Civil Defence officer who watched from afar.”
Meanwhile Femi Joseph, state police public relations officer, has condemned the attack, describing those involved as “overzealous policemen”.
“It just got to my notice that some members of the pen profession who were on hand to cover the incident at Sotitobire church this morning were harassed or manhandled by some overzealous policemen drafted to maintain order at the scene,” he said in a statement.
“I want to sincerely and profusely apologize on behalf of the command. I will not stand here to say that some of our men, in the course of doing such job will not ruffle some feathers especially while controlling the unprecedented crowd where it might be difficult to know who is what.
“Please and please forgive them although we shall take some steps to upbraid those recalcitrant ones among them even if to forestall future reoccurrence. We respect you journalists as great partners in building the society of our dreams. Yes,as friends we seldom disagree but we remain inseparable colleagues.
“Once again, I am on my knees apologising on their behalf. On a sad note, as a result of fake news today, we lost a policeman, and a suspected arsonist.”