*Journalists are now cowards, they can’t defend themselves
From Alhassan A. Bala
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I will not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” This was a statement by Lord Northclift on the significance of journalists and journalism.
To begin with, despite the claim by many government officials that they recognise freedom of speech but it seems these officials see any journalist who writes stories as their enemy and by extension want to be the ones to decide the stories to write.
Sometimes, even journalists and their unions: either NUJ or RATTAWU, are not helping matters, as they show nonchalant attitude when something happen to a colleague while doing his/her job.
For instance, during the administration of the former president Goodluck Jonathan, a reporter with the German Radio, Deutsche Welle, was expelled from the Presidential Villa over a question.
And with the coming of president Muhammadu Buhari, his administration also expelled a reporter from the Punch Newspaper over a report. Former Edo state governor Adams Oshiomole also expelled an ITV reporter over a report. Many state governors like Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i are still detaining journalists over news reports.
In Kano state, a private radio station had several issues with the former governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau which the governor ordered be expelled from the Government House. Although, former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso had no open issue with journalists in the state, one is cautious to exonerate him of this widespread media gag. And so the trend continues unabated in all parts of the country.
Just last week, on Thursday night, around Hayin Banki, Mobile policemen and members of State Security Services attached to Governor of Kano state Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje saved the Governor from a robbery attack on his way from Abuja to Jos, the Plateau state capital, after receiving an award by the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
As the Governor’s convoy was speeding through thick bush approaching Riyom in Plateau state, armed robbers laid siege. This prompted the mobile policemen to react. They discovered that no vehicle was coming from the left lane of the road in between some rocks and a thick bush.
As the pilot car leading the convoy slowed down, road blocks were seen mounted by the robbers while the robbery was going on. On learning of the road blockage, one of the police mobile opened fire on the robbers while the SSS and other policemen backing the convoy also started shooting till the robbers scampered for safety.
For any reporter and editor, this is a very good story to break and that was what happened, as the governor was going with press crew. But curiously, only one reporter, Abbas Yusha’u with Freedom Radio Kano reported the incident which didn’t go down well with the governor.
This made Ganduje to hurriedly expel Yusha’u from the Government House, saying he defied the governor’s order that no journalist should write the story.
But to the surprise of someone like me, no print or electronic reporter reported this harassment of a colleague, forgetting that they may be the victims one day.
The question I just want to ask the Kano state governor Ganduje is: what is wrong with the report since the incident had truly happened? Is it the duty of the governor to decide which story journalists should write?
After all, Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
Thus, the 1999 Constitution acknowledges that media, being the watch-dog of the society is the main vehicle by which rulers misdeeds can be checked. The developmental function and roles of the media include gathering and dissemination of information, verification of news, education and enlightenment of the people, shaping of public opinion, setting of national agenda, safeguarding of right of individuals, interests, groups, advertisement of good and services.
Alhassan A. Bala, writes from Abuja from email@example.com