By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The International Press Institute (IPI) has condemned the persistent attack on Nigerian media by the federal government.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Executive Committee of Nigeria National Committee of IPI, the institute condemned in particular the ongoing ambush of newspaper delivery vans, seizure and destruction of newspapers by the military over alleged national security.
“The government is already notorious for its assault on the free press, but this week’s mindless and coordinated assault on some selected newspapers across the country is a new low”, the statement said.
IPI said the explanations by the military authorities that its action was necessitated by a desire to preempt usage of media outlets by insurgents for their attacks on civilian population is ‘weak and infantile’.
The institute further expressed the fear that in the run-up to the general elections, the current assault could be a pointer to a greater danger to the free press in Nigeria, even as it called on the media to resist the attacks.
While IPI called on the government to stop the ongoing media repression, IPI said as partners-in-progress, the media community is willing and ready to work with the government on the nation’s security challenges.
“But the press will not submit to any undemocratic, cow-boy tactics. Assault on the free press did not work in Nigeria in the past – not even under the brutal military dictatorships. It certainly will not work under this democratic dispensation”, IPI warned.
Recall that on Friday, the military had impounded packs of major newspapers, their circulation vehicles and arrested their drivers. The clampdown, which began on Friday, entered its second day on Saturday with greater ferocity.
Early on Saturday, soldiers stormed newspaper distribution centres in the Federal Capital Territory and other parts of Nigeria. At the Area One distribution centre in Abuja, soldiers barricaded the area at 2am, marching out newspaper marketers, distributors and vendors.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Newspaper Distributors in Abuja, Oladipupo Moses, while reacting to the persistent clampdown, said the distribution vans in the custody of the soldiers included those of The Guardian, Leadership, Thisday, Daily Trust, Sun, Pilot, Newswatch and National Mirror.
Oladipupo said the soldiers were led by an officer in a green tracksuit said henceforth, all distributors and vendors must operate with identity cards.
This clampdown was witnessed in Rivers, Kwara, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Borno and Plateau states.