Uwazurike laments travails of media in election period, tasks NUJ, NBA

Posted by News Express | 25 November 2018 | 794 times

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•Uwaurike speaking during the News Express 6th Anniversary Lecture in Lagos

President Emeritus, Aka Ikenga think tank Chief (Barrister) Goddy Uwazurike, has said that the road to a vigilant media practice in Nigeria is strewn with land mines.

Speaking at the News Express 6th Anniversary Lecture held on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at the Banquet Hall of Ikeja Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, Uwazurike, who was the event chairman, said that while the Nigerian Constitution in Section 39 guarantees the right to hold opinion, disseminate information and be free from intimidation and in spite of the Freedom of Information Act which journalists fought for, what media practitioners are going through is beyond imagination.

He, however, advised journalists not take any assault lying low but to fight back through the press and the law court, adding, “The Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Nigeria Bar Association must join hands to protect our rights.”

Highlighting the intimidation and harassment visited on journalists, he said: “The recent experience of our journalist friend, Jones, is a case in point. He was arrested, detained at the instance of a security operative for two years. Why? Because the operative did not like what he wrote! If Jones had committed a criminal offence, the state would have charged him to court. But because the operative sees himself as the alpha and omega, he simply locked him up. So Jones was tried, locked up, convicted by an operative who acted according to his whims and caprices! The operative did not reckon with the power of the press. To him, the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword means nothing.

“Those who were in practice at the time of assassination of Dele Giwa will remember the atrocities against the media. Ditto the terrible era of the ‘almighty’ Abacha. Guerrilla press became the order of the day,” Uwazuruike noted.

According to him, “Respite came for the media during this civil rule. But a new threat called Anti-Fake News Campaign has crept up. The media is once more under the threat it faced in 1984/1985. It is called Decree 4. Decree 4 simply can be described as any publication which the government does not like. It does not matter whether it is true or not. The free role of the media has come under the threat of the government to arrest the media players for carrying fake news. It does not matter that it is tidier to go to court for libel instead of using police and other operatives to clamp down on the press.

“The media clampdown in the country is on the increase. Shame on all those who benefitted from the freedom of the press but today are determined to destroy the media through intimidation and outright brutality. The Minister of Information does not see himself as a protector of freedom of information. The same goes for the guerrilla media operators who are now in government who have today committed class suicide.

“Every journalist is under pressure to publish the views of every political gladiator. The level of falsehood is alarming. The same political gladiator will turn against the journalist if he is the victim of the false news. The desire to emasculate the press kicks in once the news is unfavourable,” the eminent lawyer said.

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