The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has condemned the persistent harassment of journalists in Ebonyi State on the orders of the Governor of the state, Mr. David Umahi and other state authorities.
The body cited the arrest of a reporter with Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Peter Okutu, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at the behest of the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Council, Mr. Clement Odah.
In a statement issued by its President, Mr. Mustapha Isa, and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, NGE noted that Okutu was arrested in a gestapo manner by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), at a hotel in Abakaliki, after he was lured to the hotel by Odah, over a story on military invasion of Umuogodoakpu-Ngbo community in Ohaukwu LGA.
“The bone of contention was not on the veracity of the story but on the number of persons allegedly killed during the military invasion,” NGE said.
NGE noted that rather than intervene and rein in his men, state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Awosola Awotunde, justified the arrest and accused journalists of “heating up the polity.”
NGE recalled that a similar incident took place in the same Ebonyi State barely four days ago, when a reporter with Sun Newspapers, Mr. Chijioke Agwu, was harassed and arrested at the Government House by the Chief Security Officer (CSO) on the orders of Governor Umahi. The reporter was subsequently handed over to the state’s Commissioner of Police.
The body noted that Umahi had also announced a ban, on The Sun and The Vanguard reporters, for life from the Ebonyi Government House.
NGE urged all stakeholders to note that journalists are not criminals who should be harassed, intimidated, arrested and subjected to inhuman treatment under any guise.
“If any person feels maligned by a media report, the least required of such a person is to put forward what he or she considers the correct narrative and in the spirit of right of reply, the media is obligated to publish same”.
NGE called on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to call his men to order, not only in Ebonyi State, but all over the nation.
It also vowed to hold Umahi responsible for the safety of, not only the two affected reporters, but other journalists practising in Ebonyi State.