Last week a government agency showed its intolerance to the workings of the media with the arrest and detention of a journalist, Samuel Ogundipe by the Nigeria Police. The alleged offence of Ogundipe, who works with online newspaper, Premium Times as their crime reporter, is that he has been highly critical of them
The police also wanted him to break one of the most important cardinal rules of journalism by making him disclose the sources that have been giving him scoops. Although two of his colleagues, Editor-in- Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and education correspondent, Azeezat Adedigba, were also briefly detained at the SARS headquarters in Abuja before being released; the action of the police is an affront on the media profession, which should be allowed to report both the positives and negatives of government and its agencies without hindrance.
Besides there are checks enshrined in the laws of the land which allow aggrieved parties to head to court if they feel that they have been wrongly maligned in whatever report that is deemed to be “offensive”.
This is what should be done under a democracy rather than resorting to strong armed tactics in an effort to stifle the media. Sadly, the action of the police is only the latest assault on “gentlemen of the press”.
Some weeks ago a despicable event took place in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital, when thugs, suspected to be working for some aggrieved members of a political party, attacked journalists.
According to reports, the thugs, who were said to have arrived the venue of a scheduled press conference where 11 out of 16 members of the State Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) wanted to announce the suspension of the Chairman, Prince Gboyega Famodun, and the Secretary, Alhaji Rasak Salinsile, in a 14-passenger bus wielding different dangerous weapons.
The hoodlums caused serious panic and pandemonium at the venue, forcing hundreds of party members who had arrived the briefing alongside newsmen scampering for safety. Had this been a one off occurrence in the state, eyebrows would not have been raised; unfortunately it appears it has become a pattern. In July last year, journalists were also on the receiving end of an assault by suspected political thugs who descended on the men of the fourth estate of the realm at the Baptist High School in Iwo, Osun State.
The school served as the collation centre of the Osun west senatorial by-election which had taken place 24 hours earlier to fill the vacancy created by the death on April 23, 2017 of Senator Isiaka Adeleke.
The journalists had gone to cover the announcement of the result of the bye-election by Mr Baritor Kpagih, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Residential Electoral Commissioner. Sadly more than a year after the incident happened no one has been brought to book on account of attacking journalists who were carrying only out their lawful duties.
As a consequence it is obvious that is what emboldened thugs to carry out a similar attack only recently in Oshogbo.
These hoodlums are not spirits so it beats our imagination that the law enforcement agencies have not been able to arrest anybody and prosecute them so as to serve as a deterrent to others. Already we have seen how the situation is becoming direr for “gentlemen of the press” with a report indicating that a number of them have even lost their lives. According to data collected by the International Press Centre (IPC) at least two Nigerian journalists were killed last year.
The slain journalists were Famous Giobaro of Bayelsa State-owned radio station, Glory FM 97.1, who was shot dead on April 16; and Lawrence Okojie of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Benin, who was shot dead while returning from work on July 8.
Also another journalist, Jones Abiri, publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, spent two years in detention after his arrest by agents of the Department of State Services (DSS) on July 21, 2016 before recently being granted bail by a court. Whatever his offence, Abiri should not have spent such a long time in incarceration but should have been given his day in court which has the constitutionally powers to detain or release him.
On our part we members of the fourth estate of the realm should also dignify ourselves by not pandering to any interest and instead carry out our duties in accordance to the ethics of the profession which insists on equal reportage and fair hearing.
We are also appealing to media owners to institute insurance policies for their employees considering the alarming risks many journalists now face in trying to carry out their duties in getting Nigerians understand what is happening in the country. If such is done it will only give reassurances to the journalists that whatever efforts they are making in trying to get to the root of a story will not be in vain should they suffer any form of injury or assault.
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