Of recent, we have seen the emergence of a frightening dimension against the hitherto very cordial and peaceful relationship between the Media community and Security agencies in Akwa Ibom State.
That journalists and newspapers’ publishers are today hounded by security agencies, at the least promptings in Akwa Ibom State, is a very unhealthy development which is completely antithetical to sound democratic tenents.
The case at hand is the arrest and detention of Mr. Emmanuel Sam, publisher of the Guide Newspaper on Thursday, October 11, 2018 by the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the Police over a petition by a certain politician. Though, Comrade Sam has been granted bail by the Police and asked to report whenever needed, we believe that the circumstance of his travails is lacking in merit and he should be released unconditionally.
Civil or criminal matters are distinct. We therefore expect the Police to always decipher on this and to advise petitioner(s) to act within the demands of the Law rather than to tactfully employ brute force against journalists.
The adhesive in the collaboration between security agencies and the Press hinges on the premise that the Press is constitutionally empowered to hold Government and its officials accountable to the people in order to ensure transparency and better service delivery to the people. The public sees Government and its officials through the Media, and when its duty is hampered, the envisaged purpose is defeated.
It is therefore a threat to this constitutionally enshrined responsibility, when the Police or any security agent(s) of the State submit themselves to be used by politicians to molest, arrest and sometimes detain journalists and publishers at will.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council has noted this ugly trend and wants to draw the attention of the respected State Commissioner of Police and the State Director of State Security Services to this unacceptable development. We accordingly urge them to curb the excesses of their officials.
The laws of the land are there for any aggrieved member of the public or organization to employ in seeking redress against publications considered injurious to self dignity in the eyes of the public. In such instance, the avenue to seek redress is the Law Court. The NUJ equally has Ethics and Disciplinary Committee to handle cases of professional misconduct duly brought before it. Going outside this realm to address grievances is a negation, which will be resisted.
Deviation from the lofty path of according respect and cooperation to the Press as stipulated by our law and international statutes, is not only ignoble but an open signal of a retreat into fascism.
We do not expect that the present corp of fine and robust professionals, who are at the helm of affairs of the security agencies in Akwa Ibom State, will be misguided by politicians to hurt and destroy our healthy relationship.
However, we wish to reteirate that we do not encourage unethical reportage and we have constantly reminded our members to stay within the rules or face professional sanctions.
As a responsible professional body, we will always promote peace, unity and development as well as ensure that respect is accorded to the Government and its officials in news reportage and editorials.
Let us respect each other’s role for a healthier collaboration, unity, peace and development of the society.