The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Council, has strongly condemned the increasing harassment of journalists by security operatives, describing it as sad and dangerous.
In a press statement released in Abuja, Wednesday, jointly signed by Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche and Ochiaka Ugwu, chairman and secretary of the council, respectively, they noted that the clampdown on journalists and other media practitioners, especially arbitrary detention, is capable of preventing members of the fourth estate from effectively carrying out their constitutional function of holding government and its officials accountable to Nigerians.
“The NUJ FCT is worried over the increasing harassment and invitation of journalists by various security agencies on nebulous petitions by state officials and members of the ruling class,” the statement reads.
The statement cited the recent case of Elder Tom Ogah Uhia, Publisher of Power Steering Magazine, who was detained by the police for 29 days without trial.
“So far cases of media harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officials have been brought to the fore and include the harassment and detention of the publisher of Power Steering Magazine for 29 days. Some of our members have been summoned severally over stories pertaining to corruption allegations. In some instances, there have been forceful attempts to coerce journalists arrested to disclose their sources of information.
“We need to remind the government that Nigeria’s ranking on the index of press freedom is unflattering, therefore, attempts should be geared towards improving on the index rather than exacerbate the situation.”
According to the statement, “The media has a duty to inform the public and the public has a right to receive information and this requires an enabling and secure environment for the enjoyment of this right. This environment should and can only be provided by the State, through its agents, as the principal duty bearer.
“Make no mistake about it, until we see the rights of journalist protected, NUJ FCT shall not relent in its pursuit for media freedom.
“As a union, we demand that the members of the press feel secure to carry out their duties without intimidation and coercion especially during this period that the government has pledged to deepen governance and reposition the polity for better after the #EndSARS protest”.
The union called on journalists not to be deterred by the impunity of security agencies, but remain steadfast and professional in their conduct of reporting.