Posted by News Express | 11 June 2013 | 3,535 times
The Presidency late yesterday allayed fears that the recently promulgated anti-terror law could be used against journalists reporting the activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram.
“Neither the intention of the law nor the contents of the order can be interpreted except by professional mischief makers to mean a suppression of press freedom. For the avoidance of doubt, the order is not meant to stop journalists from carrying out their duties or function of news gathering or reporting as they differ from terrorist activities. Rather, the order is out to criminalise acts of incitement by anyone, group of persons or institutions to commit terrorist acts through dissemination of terrorist information,” said presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe in a statement issued in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Dr. Okupe, who is the Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Goodluck Jonathan, was replying the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which two days ago declared that the federal government order proscribing terrorist organisations circumscribes press freedom. He lambasted the party and its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for deliberately setting out to mislead Nigerians on the issue and for criticising the proscription of terrorist groups by the Jonathan administration. Hear Okupe:
This latest effort by Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the ACN not only betrays desperation on the part of the party but is equally lacking in sound judgment. What its present action suggests is that were the ACN in power it would have done nothing to stop the needless destruction of lives and property by the terrorist group proscribed by the Federal Government.
Are we to believe then that the ACN is unhappy with present peace and calm enjoyed by residents of the states under emergency rule? Are we to conclude that Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his party are uncomfortable with the fact that following the intervention of our military, that children have returned to school and that markets have reopened for business?
This latest uproar by the ACN about the order affecting or circumscribing press freedom is a blatant lie. It is not supported by reason, logic or law.
By stating that “the offensive section of the Order is Section 5 (1), which prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group”, is the ACN suggesting that terror should continue unabated and unchecked?
Is the party suggesting that government folds its arms and let its citizens be murdered in cold blood and properties destroyed at will?
If the grouse of the ACN is with the word “support”, we expect Lai Mohammed and his party to clearly understand the difference between reporting activities as news and dissemination of information on behalf of terrorists.
Our concern with the ACN’s statement is the misinformation they are giving Nigerians on the stifling of press freedom. Neither the intention of the law nor the contents of the order can be interpreted except by professional mischief makers to mean a suppression of press freedom.
For the avoidance of doubt, the order is not meant to stop journalists from carrying out their duties or function of news gathering or reporting as they differ from terrorist activities. Rather, the order is out to criminalise acts of incitement by anyone, group of persons or institutions to commit terrorist acts through dissemination of terrorist information.
For the last two years, the ACN and Lai Mohammed in particular, have tried to misrepresent President Goodluck Jonathan and spread gross misinformation about his policies and actions. Unfortunately, their efforts have all failed.
It is only a jaundiced organisation with no clear perspective on governance or respect for truth that will state that the only transformation observable is that of transforming from a democratically elected president to an emperor or despot. The declaration is bestial, puerile and irresponsible. Never in the history of this country has a president laid much emphasis on political liberalism than President Jonathan has done.
The ACN, which Lai Mohammed represents, has often been described as a tyrannical political institution run by an association of despots and a clearly undemocratic leadership.
The Transformation Agenda of this administration as evinced by the mid-term report of President Jonathan is not only unprecedented but also unrivalled by any administration, whether federal, state or local government past or present, in the annals of our nation.
If the ACN cannot copy it, they should at least have the decency and humility to acknowledge it.
•Photo shows presidential spokesmen, Doyin Okupe.
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