“The hasty defense by the presidency of the recent detention for two days of LEADERSHIP Newspaper journalists by the Nigeria police Force is not only puerile and stands logic on its heads but is also a subtle attempt to provide intellectual backup for an emerging regime of dictatorship in Nigeria”.
“Dr. Reuben Abati who wrote the Presidential treatise defending the police harassment of the Nigerian media workers over a story published by the paper in which his paymaster frowned at, has done journalism profession a great disservice for drawing an analogy of this ugly unconstitutional harassment of the LEADERSHIP journalists with the recent police inquisition in the United Kingdom of some reporters who breached the privacy of some British citizens. The two cases are poles apart because while the UK scenario is about basic right of citizens to enjoy freedom from undue invasion of privacy, the case in point in Nigeria is on the question of rightness or otherwise of the media playing her constitutional duty to check government excesses under section 22”.
With the above summation HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) -a media focused Non-governmental organization dismissed a statement by the Special Adviser on media to President Good luck Jonathan Dr. Reuben Abati in which he claimed that it was lawful for the police operatives to have arrested and detained the four journalists from the Leadership Newspapers. HURIWA insisted that there were better civilized mechanism of law enforcement that the crude tactics of physical and psychological intimidation to extract confessional statements usually used by the operatives of the Nigeria Police.
Besides, the Rights group said it was professionally unethical for media workers to reveal sources of their stories because doing that would dry up those sources and therefore rendering the media incompetent and unproductive in which case democracy will suffer and dictatorship will be on the ascendancy in Nigeria.
Specifically, media reports quoting a purported police summon endorsed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr. Danmallam Mohammed, [Administration] at the Force Headquarters on behalf of the Deputy Inspector General of Police who heads the Administration’s department of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja sent to the Chairman of Leadership Newspapers- Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, said the police was investigating the circumstances that led to the publication of a front page story with the headline “outrage trails presidential directive on Tinubu, APC” and sub-titled “Bromide of the Presidential directive”.
The Police Force Headquarters said the two reporters that anchored the story and the Group News Editor of the Paper were required to appear before the Deputy Inspector General of Police for interrogation on Monday April 8th 2013 but when four reporters from Leadership Newspapers responded to the police summon they were immediately clamped into detention for failing to disclose the source of their information on the said Presidential directive.
Following public outcry and a claim by the publishers of Leadership Newspaper that the arrest and detention of the now freed four Journalists was on the instruction to the police by President Jonathan, the presidency denied but insisted that the police did the right thing.
The presidential Adviser had defended the police thus; “in that regard, President Jonathan did not have to issue any order before those who have as much constitutional responsibility as the media, the police to see the need to act in the public interest”.
But in a statement jointly authorized by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Director of media Affairs Miss Zainab Yusuf, the Rights group reminded Dr. Reuben Abati that “he who lives in glass house need not throw stones”.
HURIWA argued that Nigerians roundly condemned the police harassment of the leadership Newspapernot necessarily because the media is above the law but because police arbitrary intimidation of the media and the use of psychological torture to extract confessional statement from citizens are fundamentally unconstitutional, illegal, and tyrannical and must be eradicated if Nigeria’s democracy is to advance.
HURIWA faulted the presidency’s comparison of the Leevinson inquiry in the United Kingdom with the recent arrest and illegal detention of the four journalists in Nigeria even as it stated that unlike in the United Kingdom whereby the police used civilized and rights – based approach to obtain statement from the British Journalists indicted for breaching privacy laws in their reportage, Nigeria police operatives believe and indeed practice the use of crude tactics of psychological torture to compel confessional statements from persons allegedly in conflict with the law.
The Rights group which stated that sections 22 and 36(5) of the constitution are clear on the duties and responsibilities of the Nigerian media and the inherent fundamental right of all Nigerians to fair hearing also tasked operatives of the Nigeria police to employ the use of twenty first century human rights compliant mechanism of investigation.