*NASS members media briefing disrupted, journalists beaten
*Liberty TV camera man seriously injured
*NUJ, El-Rufai condemns action of the thugs
By Aminu Mohammed, Kaduna
Hundreds of thugs believed to have been sponsored by the state government forcefully messed up a press briefing at the NUJ secretariat in Kaduna on Sunday afternoon. They were reportedly dispersed by policemen.
The thugs armed with knives and other weapons, were becoming violent before the police arrived some minutes later and were forced to fire bullet shots into the air. No fatal casualty was recorded. At the last count about six journalists including the camera man of local Liberty TV were seriously injured with blood stains on their dresses.
The briefing was organised by two Senators from the state, Comrade Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi against alleged impunity in the ruling party in the state. Members of House of Representatives present include Hon Sani Suleiman, Hon Isa Ashiru, Hon Haruna Saeed and other politicians from all the three zones. The briefing was on at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Kaduna when the invaders stormed the premises.
As at the time of filing this report, it was unclear how many properties of the Union and guests, were damaged, but it was confirmed that the main entrance to the NUJ office glass were shattered by the thugs who were attempting to gain entrance before they were forcefully dispersed.
Though, it can be said it is unclear who sponsored them, but it was apparent from the way they were organised that they were sponsored by influential persons in the ruling government against whom the media briefing was meant.
One of the assailants was heard n the local Hausa dialect using insultive words that are unprintable on the policemen, while another threatened to kill a policeman who prevented him from entering the premises.
It is sad and unpardonable that the premises of the NUJ was attacked by thugs alleged to have the sympathy and cover of the state government. Six journalists have been persecuted by the Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai administration with one critically ill and in in Kaduna prison presently. His administration has been particularly anti-media in all ramifications.
Years past, even under the rabid military administrations pre-1999, the NUJ has always enjoyed a high level of sanctity. With this violation, the nation’s democracy and constitutional rights guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution has been raped in the market place, of all places, in Kaduna.
The Divisional Police Officer for Gabasawa police division, CSP Abdullahi, was reportedly alleged to have led the supposed ‘thugs’ into the venue of the briefing. Some of the politicians who were addressing the media had to jump through the fence of the NUJ secretariat to avoid being physically beaten while leaving their vehicles.
National Secretariat of NUJ reacts: The NUJ statement signed by Shuaibu Usman Leman, the National Secretary reads thus: “Some desperate politicians who are bent on destroying journalism and journalists in Kaduna have continued with their dastardly acts on the media. The most recent development is frightening to the Union as it signals clearly that such attacks on the media are not going to abate any soon.
Political thugs sponsored by some dangerously reckless members of a political party invaded the Press Centre, venue of a press briefing by some APC members of the National Assembly and attacked both journalists and politicians, destroying media equipment and inflicting bodily harm on some journalists.
We regret to note that Kaduna is ingloriously attaining notoriety as the deadliest state for journalists in Nigeria to operate with harassment of journalists and increased repression of press freedom. As professionals whose responsibility is to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the masses, journalists now live in perpetual fear of being arrested by security operatives or attacked by faceless assailants without any just cause.
It is worth noting that press freedom is key to achieving credible democracy and this freedom includes the right to seek and receive information from all available sources to enable formulation of proper opinions to whomsoever one desires and to do so through whichever means it is feasible to communicate. Such attacks we believe are meant to curtail such freedoms.
In the light of these unabated attacks and intimidation on Journalists, we call once more on the Police and other agents of the State, to immediately prioritise issues of security and safety of journalists not only in Kaduna State but throughout the country as critical components of their programmes.
El-Rufai condemns attack: In what looks like a defence, governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai in a statement signed by Samuel Aruwan Senior Special Assistant to the Governor (Media and Publicity) has said that nobody will be allowed to stifle freedom of expression.
In a message to the Kaduna State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the government condemned the mob action by hoodlums at the premises of the NUJ on Sunday.
Having been briefed on the situation, the governor expressed sympathy with the NUJ and the persons that were harassed by the hoodlums. The governor directed that the security agencies should investigate and take necessary action against the hoodlums.
The governor also directed security agencies to beef up security at the NUJ secretariat to protect journalists doing their duty.
He added that “the media must not be hindered from carrying out their constitutional and professional obligations. The government of Kaduna State upholds the principles of free speech and respects the freedom of expression.
“Politics should not be a desperate game. And desperation should not be visited on journalists or any citizen.”
He also said that the government of Kaduna State will not tolerate any attempt to muzzle the press and innocent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.”