The invasion of Media Trust’s (publishers of Daily Trust Newspaper) head office and two of its regional offices by armed soldiers on the 6th of January may have come and gone, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of media practitioners and citizens. Of more grave concern is the fact that the clampdown on media houses and arrest of journalists is becoming rampant as the 2019 general elections approaches.
Democracy thrives on the freedom of the press and popular governments draw their lifeblood from a free media. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the Nigerian press this tenet that underpins a robust democratic practice globally, although, when journalists overstep their bounds, there are enough sanctions for libel and other infringements in the statutes.
The siege occurred a few hours after the newspaper published a report detailing how the Nigerian military assembled troops and equipment in preparation for a ‘massive operation’ to dislodge Boko Haram and retake Baga and five other towns in Borno from the insurgents.
The detained Maiduguri Bureau Chief of Daily Trust, Uthman Abubakar, was released by the military authorities as confirmed by the paper 48 hours after the raid. Uthman maintained that he was courteously treated, however, said his mobile phones and laptop were still with the military. They told him they needed time to finish the forensic checks they were carrying out on the equipment.
In light of the unpalatable intimidation and killing of journalists, and clampdown of media houses, WSCIJ reiterates the role of the media as enshrined in section 22 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). It is an institution that is charged with the responsibility to police over the fundamental objectives and direct principles of state policy as well as citizen’s fundamental human rights. The constitution and laws of the land has also created channels to seek redress and possible legal sanctions to journalists or media organisations who are not playing by the rules of the game. WSCIJ condemns any form of repression to free speech and press freedom.