Journalism, the Fourth Estate of the Realm and the society’s watchdog, is a profession that has paid its dues in nation building and that continues to play the inevitable surveillance function so that the country for which generations of men and women have laboured to build would not go on its knees.
There is no telling the sacrifices the practitioners of this noble profession have made in the evolution of this country, right from the time of struggle for self-government, through the dark ages of the military rule to the dawn of democracy.
However, one would expect that this group of persons who have given talents, bodies and blood to see their country attain democracy would now be better placed to enthrone civility and good governance for the benefit of all. But the sad reality is that the opposite is the case.
Instead of being positioned to enhance development and good governance, the profession is going through another round of repression in the hands of crude political leaders.
There have been repeated reports of cases of abuse, harassment, assault, arrest and jailing of journalists in the different parts of the country. The ugly tide has risen to a level where concerned citizens must markedly intervene.
The business of journalism, one must say now requires utmost caution. Journalists now have to be on guard, members of the pen profession have to put their houses in order on a daily basis as they do not know who is next to be picked up, locked up or even incarcerated by politicians who hate to see themselves in the mirror. I must in any case state that this present situation of the media in Nigeria is a breach of the laws upholding our constitutional democracy.
Nigeria like every other nation of the world has laws regulating its affairs and these laws ought to be respected and complied with by agencies of government in carrying out their activities. Unfortunately, just like in banana republic, it appears that the Nigerian government has no regard for the rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) being the grundnorm has stated in its Section 39 that: (1) “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.”
In the recent past, there was the case of Samuel Ogundipe, a Premium Times reporter who was apprehended by the Police. The news of the arrest and account freezing of Mr. Ogundipe is an appalling narrative in a democratic dispensation. Ogundipe in the exercise of his duty as a journalist reported news appertaining to the invasion of the National Assembly by the officers and men of the Department of State Services and insisted on maintaining the confidentiality of his source in accordance with Article 4 of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists which is made pursuant to Section 9 of the Nigerian Press Council Act (CAP N128 LFN 2004). Having accused him of many unfounded allegations, the officers of the Nigerian police proceeded to arrest him.
The usual trend, until recently, was to arrest a journalist and freed him or her after few days of arrest then the arraignment of certain unlawful charges. The new turn of regular harassments as exampled by Ogundipe is unlawful, uncivilised and totally unacceptable. This is condemnable in the strongest of terms as an unreasonable and barbaric act on part of the Nigerian Police.
Trying to muzzle Mr. Ogundipe whose only offence was being a journalist is a drama taken too far. And the sadder part is the silence of persons who are supposed to rein in on these anomalies. It is now so precarious that we don’t know who will be picked next.
The demolition of the Music House (Fresh FM) of the renowned musician, Yinka Ayefele, is another obvious attack on the media.
•Ajulo is a legal practitioner based in Abuja
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