Media Rights Agenda (MRA) Monday called on Governor Peter Ndubuisi Mbah of Enugu State to immediately discontinue the harassment and intimidation of journalists in the State, saying the ongoing attacks on the media by his government in violation of the Constitution amounts to a breach of the oath he took on becoming Governor just two months ago, particularly his pledge to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”
In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA’s Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “We wish to advise Governor Mbah, in the light of the fact that he is new to his office, that the media do not exist to sing his praises but to perform a constitutionally mandated function of upholding the responsibility and accountability of his government to the people.
Accordingly, the unwarranted attacks by his government on journalists engaged in the lawful pursuit of their professional duties will not go unchallenged.”
Calling on the Governor to put a stop to the ongoing harassment and intimidation of Mr. Michael Okechukwu Ilediagu, the publisher of News Center, and other journalists in the state, orchestrated by the Governor’s aides, Mr. Longe warned: “If the situation persists, we will be compelled to activate all constitutional means and international mechanisms available to us to challenge this ongoing illegality which constitutes a clear abuse of office and abuse of power.”
He called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Olukayode Egbetokun, to order an investigation into the abuse of police powers by Police authorities in Enugu State at the behest of the Governor’s Office for the purpose of harassing and intimidating journalists in the State with the objective of preventing them from performing their constitutional functions.
Mr. Longe noted that Mr. Ilediagu had been subjected to intimidation by operatives of the Police Anti-kidnapping Squad in the State, who invaded his home and arrested him over his reporting on developments in the State, with no evidence that he had committed any offence, adding that officials of the Enugu State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as well as other journalists and civil society actors in the State have confirmed that the journalist and publisher continues to face threats and harassment from State Government officials.
Stressing that journalism is not a crime to warrant the use of police units to hound journalists, especially while criminals are roaming free, he argued that the potential crime is in the abuse of police powers to advance the personal and political interests of government officials.
Mr. Longe therefore called on Governor Mbah and his aides to abide by the rule of law and allow journalists and media organizations in the State to carry out their professional duties free of any harassment, intimidation or other attacks and threats.