A group, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has asked the Federal Government to go to court if it has any case against the Leadership Newspaper, rather than resorting to crude tactics of self help by harassing the organization and its staff.
Armed policemen reportedly laid siege to the headquarters of the newspaper in Abuja, following its lead story last Wednesday titled, “Outrage trails presidential directive on Tinubu, APC” with sub-titled “Bromide of the Presidential directive”.
Three of the editorial staff of the newspaper, were also invited by the police for interrogation. The Nigerian Police Force Headquarters said the two reporters that anchored the story and the Group News Editor of the newspaper were required to appear before the Deputy Inspector General of Police for interrogation on Monday April 8, 2013.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, on Monday, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to direct the hierarchy of the police to stop harassing the reporters and other allied workers of the newspapers, but instead go to court if they have evidence that the said report was false and malicious.
It said that rather than harassing the media organization and its staff, the police should concentrate their energy on restoring peace and security in the country as well as focus its attention on how to regain the respect of Nigerians.
“HURIWA ask the nation’s police to stop playing ‘political pranks’ and concentrate their energy towards restoring peace and security across the country at a time of serious attacks on civilian targets by armed terrorists in the North,” the group said.
“HURIWA also tasks the Nigeria Police to focus more on how to regain respect of the Nigerian people rather than dwell in the crude tactics of being used as tools in the hands of politicians to oppress their perceived political opponents and dissenting voices.”
The group noted that it was wrongheaded for the government to resort to the use of armed police operatives to intimidate and psychologically harass journalists any time the government feels that an unfavorable story has enjoyed wider media sympathy.
It reminded the government that section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (amended) “obliges the Nigerian media to hold the government officials to account to the people of Nigeria who are the owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria.”
HURIWA, however, cautioned the media to be objective, balance and non-partisan in their news reporting since they are the conscience of the nation.
The group said, “The reported siege laid on the premises of the Leadership newspapers in Abuja by armed police on the orders of the powers- that- be over a recent exclusive story is another dimension of the emerging scenarios of Gestapo style operations of the security agents who may still believe that Nigeria is still under military dictatorship”.
“The media has the independent constitutional mandate to inform, educate, and entertain Nigerians and if in the event of carrying out these functions the practitioners are presumed to have erred, then the law enforcement officials must respect the due process of the law and use civilize approach to gather their body of evidence if they are convinced that what the media wrote was false and/or malicious.
“Nigeria Police Force must not be used as an attack dog of the government since they are set up in the first place to enforce the rule of law”.