Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has reiterated the need for government to see newsmen as partners in progress and protect them from harm.
The PDP presidential candidate added that press freedom must be guaranteed in the country as part of efforts targeted at strengthening democracy in Nigeria.
This he said in reaction to the military invasion of Maiduguri and Abuja offices of Media Trust Limited, Publishers of Daily Trust newspapers on Sunday as earlier reported by Naija News.
However, Naija News also reported that the federal government has already intervened in the face-off between the media outfit and military authorities, ordering the army to immediately vacate the premises of the news outfit and resolve issues through dialogue.
The statement from the Atiku camp says:
“We are alarmed at the military invasion of the offices of Media Trust Limited, Publishers of Daily Trust newspapers. We are further outraged by the arrest of their regional editor, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab.”
“We totally condemn these actions and call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call off his forces to order and end their attack on the media and the freedom of the press.”
“This is a travesty, the likes of which we have not seen since the heinous days of military rule. Atiku Abubakar and other pro-democrats did not risk their lives fighting for democracy for this to happen.”
“This is unacceptable. The media is not only a partner in progress to the government, but they are also a quasi-arm of government being, as Edmund Burke propounded, the Fourth Estate of the Realm.”
“The particular use of heavily armed soldiers also shows the abuse of scarce resources which has exacerbated the insecurity currently plaguing Nigeria.”
“Our soldiers should not be used to target law-abiding citizens. A dutiful and prudent commander-in-chief should rather deploy them to either the Northeast or the Zamfara-Katsina axis, especially after the Governors of both states held New Year’s Day conferences bemoaning the breakdown of law and order in their respective states.”
“Again, we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to use his powers as C-in-C to protect the people, rather than to oppress Nigerians. If the government has issues with Media Trust Limited, it should bring charges against them at a court of competent jurisdiction or the Nigeria Press Council, the statutory body that governs ethical standards in the Nigerian press.”
“Nigeria had a free press before this administration and we assure the President and all Nigerians that a free press will outlast this government.”
Meanwhile, military authorities in a statement by its spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, have admitted storming the said offices to invite the organisation’s journalists responsible for the publication of a classified military operation plans.
Usman explained that the arrested news men disclosed classified information by the newspaper which undermined national security hence its reporters responsible were being invited for questioning.
According to him, the invitation is for further investigation and if need be, all those culpable of jeopardising operations security will be prosecuted by the relevant law enforcement agency.