NLC warns against media clampdown

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jun 11th, 2014
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Workers joined yesterday the massive condemnation of the military’s attempt to muzzle the press.

TheNigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Senior Pastor of Trinity House Ituah Ighodalo, urged Nigerians to resist any attempt to restrict the media in a democracy.

NLC, in a statement by its President Abdulwahed Omar, said the clampdown on newspapers, which began on Friday, is absolutely unacceptable and clearly out of place in any democratic society.

“We strongly believe a free press is very critical in the sustenance of democracy and any obstruction to the operations of any critical organ of our democratic process would be resisted as the recent infringements in the circulation of newspapers portend. In any case foreign media organisations seem to have more access to information on these violent groups, especially Boko Haram, than our security agents.

“The military and other security agencies must restrict themselves to the protection of our sovereignty and go after those threatening this with violent attacks that have almost disappointingly overwhelmed those paid to protect lives and property, despite huge budgetary allocations.

“The security challenges we face must not be politicised and perhaps those in authority must know they are responsible and accountable to all Nigerians no matter what class, dogma, ethnic or political dispositions, and must not see governance with political bias.

“Democracy cannot survive without the media; no democracy anywhere in the world can survive with a circumscribed media. Freedom of and access to information is what builds democracy and we must not allow any of our security agencies or military formations befuddle our collective quest for sustained democratic governance,” NLC said.

According to the workers’ body, the period of impunity associated with unaccountable military dictatorships should not be reawakened by those elected under democratic platforms, adding that this will mean an open invitation to anarchy.

“What Nigeria and Nigerians need now is an end to the ongoing armed attacks and we believe all agencies responsible for the protection of lives and properties in Nigeria are capable of ensuring this if well motivated, better equipped and not partisan.

“In the course of disrupting newspaper circulations, not a few have been left in deeper agony and poverty since their means of livelihood have come under armed attacks by those expected to protect them.

“The war against the media should not only be stopped immediately, all those who suffer losses especially vendors and publishers must be compensated while the officers involved in the attacks must be apprehended and adequately punished as enemies of democracy.

“What we all want is a total annihilation of all gangs that threaten lives and properties in Nigeria and the media have not been proved to be part of this threat. Instead, they have helped everyone with useful information, which also encourage security consciousness among citizens.

“We all want results and the military and other security agencies involved in the battle against the budding insurgency in Nigeria need to urgently prove their abilities and professional prowess through the safe rescue of the Chibok girls seized since almost two months, and also apprehend the violence that have engulfed our country,” NLC said.

During plenary at the Lagos Assembly, Hon. Moshood Oshun, who represents Lagos Mainland 2 Constituency, raised the matter under matter of urgent public importance.

He said the seizure of the publications was meant to kill the press, adding that this used to be the norm under the military government, but that it is wrong under a democratic government.

“If the Federal Government felt bad about any report, it should go to a court of law rather than harassing, beating and detaining newspaper vendors, who don’t even know how the reports in the newspapers were written. It is wrong for the government to seize newspaper copies at this material time in the country,” he said.

The Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji said that it was not possible to kill the press as he said that even the military could not kill the press.

“If they don’t allow the press to publish openly, they would go underground and still publish. There is no way the Federal Government can kill the press. They should bring back our girls and fight Boko Haram instead of fighting the press,” he stated.

Others who condemned the clampdown are Hon. Rotimi Olowo (Shomolu 1); Hon. Segun Olulade (Epe 2) and Hon. Mudashiru Obasa (Agege 1).

Ighodalo at a news briefing in Lagos said the government or the army should have gone to court if they felt there was a false report in the media.

“This is a nation where there are laws. This is a nation that is meant to be a democracy, where there should be freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of interaction and freedom of association. Anybody is allowed to say what they want to say.

“If you’re not happy with what they have said, there is a law. You can recourse to the court. You can sue them. You can sue them for blasphemy. You can sue them for infamy. You can sue them for whatever, but the law must be allowed to follow its process.

“There must be no kind of intimidation and clampdown on the media. It’s an abuse of office. And it’s an abuse of fundamental human rights and freedom. This is a free country, and people should be allowed to freely express themselves. If you’re unhappy with what they have said, please take them to court and let the court have its way. It’s as simple as that.

“The impression is that it is the military on its own accord that is trying to prevent information from being spread in the media. But you know that the military cannot act on its own, otherwise it may be accused of insubordination.

“Whether it is orders from above, or orders from the military, neither is correct. It is not proper for the media or any Nigerian to have their fundamental human rights abuse,” Ighodalo said.

A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), berated government over the act.

In a statement in Lokoja, Kogi State and signed by its Executive Director, Idris Miliki Abdul, the group described government crackdown on the media as illegal.

It said: “It is worrisome that despite the defence and reason given by the military spokesperson that they are acting on intelligent information on security issues, no evidence of such has been identified during these unwarranted molestations and harassment of media establishments and personnel. We view this as impunity of the highest order in a democratic dispensation. We condemn this as an uncivilised attitude and oppressive tendencies.”

It urged the authorities to stop to further harassment of the media, which he said must seek legal redress.

The Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum (YRLF) also chided the military for the onslaught on the media.

A statement by its General Secretary Akin Malaolu, said:

“The military’s war with the press is an egregious nonsense that blows no good to our democracy and will not serve any good purpose. The origin of this invasion is not far-fetched going by recent actions to muffle the voices of #BringBackOurGirls campaigners; the Joseph Mbu bellicose posture and the warning by Marilyn Ogar, the SSS spokesperson to those who have reasons to complain about the government, were all done to make Nigerians and our foreign friends forget all about rescuing the over 200 girls from the hands of Boko Haram.

This, however, cannot be compelled by brigandage, but can only be done with common sense to bring back our girls and win the war against the insurgents. We, however, wish that President Goodluck Jonathan retraced his steps from this wrong turn in the interest of the nation.

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