*Police beg Media, Army to settle differences
National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Abdulwaheed Odusile, has described as unhealthy and undemocratic the recent arrest of Premium Times publisher, Dapo Olurunyomi and Judiciary reporter Evelyn Okakwu by the Police.
In a statement signed by Shuaibu Usman Leman, the National Secretary, he said, “the Union has repeatedly cautioned that threats and attacks against the media are aimed at inducing fear and self censorship. These are the basic strategies of authoritarian regimes and not democracies like Nigeria. The recourse sometimes to fierce and lethal counter reactions to reports by journalists who would challenge the status quo or reveal discomfiting truths would not augur well for this nation which is seeking rebranding.”
In a democracy, it is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies and the Police to ensure that the media are protected to perform their duties without let or hindrance, Comrade Odusile noted, stressing that a free press is the foundation of a vibrant democracy.
The NUJ President calls on all groups or individuals who are aggrieved because of any report from the media to seek redress in a court of law rather than resorting to self-help or detailing the Police to intimidate journalists.
Those who attack or threaten journalists must be held accountable for their acts and we call on government to take necessary steps to ensure that journalists report freely, the President urges.
Meanwhile, the police command of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has urged the management of the Premium Times and the Nigerian Army to resolve and settle their dispute peacefully.
The FCT Police Commissioner, Mohammed Mustafa, appealed to the military and the media on the need to sustain mutual relationship towards protecting national security and interest.
Mr. Mustafa’s suggestion came when the publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi and Judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu who were arrested on Thursday returned to the Police Command Headquarters on Friday morning.
The Commissioner appealed to the two parties to settle their difference amicably and out of court. The two journalists have been released on bail by the police.
Plain-clothed security officers and armed with search and arrest affidavit had arrested the two journalists at the paper’s head office in Abuja on Thursday before granting them administrative bail late in the evening.
The security men said they were acting on a criminal defamation complaint filed by Usuagwu Ugochukwu, a lawyer who claimed he was representing Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tanko Yusuf Buratai.
Mr. Ugochukwu claimed in his complaints that by its alleged defamation of Mr. Buratai, the paper’s reporting was “unpatriotic” and amounted to supporting and furthering Boko Haram’s terror campaign in the Nigerian north-eastern zone.