The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) Sahara Deck, Abuja Chapter, has joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Press Day.
The organisation said it “commends all pressmen, women, and organizations that are at the forefront of ensuring that the press does its job as both the conscience and moral barometer of the society.”
“As it is often said, the press is the fourth estate of the realm. In a democracy, the presence of an active and independent press is a non-negotiable fundamental,” the Seadogs noted.
The organisation made the statements in a release signed by the Capoon Sahara Deck, NAS Abuja Chapter, Olamide Oni, saying, “Aside from holding government to account and enlightening the citizens, an active and independent press is needed by the government to highlight its activities and achievements.”
“Therefore, having an independent press provides a win-win situation and it is healthy for democratic growth and progress,” the organisation said.
It further noted that “While the benefits of an active and independent press are too numerous to mention here, it is important to note that in terms of press freedom and independence, Nigeria is still a work in progress with a huge gap to cover.
“Journalists, media houses and others in the press industry are still experiencing state-sponsored harassment, intimidation, detention, and in extreme cases, disappearance.”
The organisation said, “It is important to bring to fore the disappearance of Dadiyata, a Kaduna-based activist and government critic who had disappeared without a trace in 2019. We call on the Police and relevant security agencies to get to the root of this disappearance.
“In the FCT, there have also been reported and documented cases of press intimidation and harassment. Most times, this state-sponsored harassment comes in the line of duty.
“When government feels that a particular story or activity does not reflect them in good light, they resort to the antiquated tactics of harassment and intimidation. A few examples of documented instances of press harassment would suffice here.
In charging the authorities to give justice to the harassed and incarcerated journalists, NAS said, “In March 2021, two journalists, Emmanuel Elebeke and Timothy Choji, were arrested and detained by the Nigerian Police while covering a protest in Abuja.
“The journalists were reportedly assaulted and had their equipment confiscated before being released after several hours. Their only offence was the fact that they dared to cover a protest.
“In January 2018, the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded the Abuja office of Premium Times, an online newspaper. The DSS reportedly arrested the newspaper’s publisher and some of its staff and confiscated computers and other equipment.
“The DSS accused the newspaper of publishing classified information and promoting terrorism, but the raid was widely condemned as an attack on press freedom.
“In October 2020, several journalists covering protests against police brutality and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja were reportedly harassed and attacked by security agents.
“Journalists from Channels TV, Arise TV, and Premium Times were among those targeted. The attacks were widely condemned as an attempt to intimidate and silence the media.
“In January 2019, soldiers from the Nigerian Army raided the offices of the Daily Trust newspaper in Maiduguri and arrested two reporters.
“The soldiers reportedly accused the newspaper of publishing sensitive military information, but the raid was widely condemned as an attack on press freedom. The reporters were released after several days in custody.
“More worrisome are reported cases of politically motivated intimidation and harassment of the media especially in states where the spotlight may not be so visible.
“The continuous harassment of citizen Agba Jalingo is a classic example. In several states, the press is neither independent nor safe. Citizens are arrested and harassed for simple social media posts that political officeholders and government officials consider offensive, even when such stories are true.
“Recently, NBC has imposed arbitrary fines on certain TV stations for making their platform available for citizens to express their views. We want to remind NBC that freedom of speech remains a fundamental right as guaranteed by the UN Charter on human rights.
“Therefore, gagging the press through obnoxious fines violates this fundamental right.
“As we mark the 2023 World Press Day, we call on government and security agencies to allow the press to function freely and independently as we see in other democracies the world over.
“The world has moved beyond this unacceptable and draconian attitude of intimidating the Press. We commend and encourage all media practitioners to remain steadfast, courageous and rededicate themselves to responsible reportage.”
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