Authoritative information reaching me has confirmed the heighten tension and fears in Akwa State over alleged plans by the Akwa Ibom Government to clamp down on independent press in the state as a preclude to the 2015 general elections.
Towards this aim, four publishers of the following newspapers namely; The Radar, The Ink, The Guide and Global Concord Newspapers have been invited by the State Police Command through an invitation letter dated 4th April, 2014 and signed by one SP Joseph Udoh to a so-called “Round Table Discussion towards the 2015 elections and the Role of the Press” at the State Police Command Ikot Akpan Abia, on Thursday 10th April, 2014.
I have spoken with several newspaper publishers in the state and sources within the state branch of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and they have confirmed this development which they perceive as a ploy by the government to clamp down and suppress vociferous and independent press in the state.
Notably, the state brach of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has not been notified of this so- called round table discussion. We ask why only four media houses have been selected? We equally ask why it is the Nigeria Police Force that is the one organizing this discussion with only four publishers several months before the general election?
For the avoidance of doubt, Section. 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) enshrines the role of the press and other agencies of the mass media to uphold accountability and democracy by the government and the fundamental objectives and directives principles of state policy under the Constitution. Equally, Section 39 of the Constitution guarantees the right of Nigerians to own and operate media establishments for the dissemination of information.
While the intention of the government and the police will be made clearer on Thursday 10th April when the invited publishers are expected to meet with the police authorities, any attack on media houses is an attack on democracy which will be strongly resisted by democratic forces. The dark days of unchallenged tyranny are over.
The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio who prides himself as a leader that has offered dividends of democracy to his people should be reminded that democracy is not about roads and other amenities which citizens are rightfully entitled to and which are his responsibilities which he swore to provide as same could be traced to even the worst dictatorship in history. At the heart of democracy is freedom of expression which our Constitution recognises and protects in Section 39.
I condemn any attempt to clamp down on media houses in Akwa Ibom State. I urge the Civil Society, NUJ, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, NBA and the Human Rights Community to follow this unfolding development closely and take a strong stance against any attack on local media in Akwa Ibom State.
Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist and can be reached via
08065142135. He is on Facebook.