Lagos — Police yesterday arrested and detained the Publisher of Leadership Newspaper and some of his editors.
This is coming barely 24 hours after the Leadership team was released by the SSS having being detained over the weekend.
But Lagos Lawyer, Festus Keyamo, yesterday accused State Security Services(SSS) of harassing Management of Leadership Newspaper, adding that "some of us are very disturbed by the current attitude of the Yar'Adua Administration to press freedom, which flows from the constitutional duties given to the press by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution."
Quoting the Section, Keyamo stated that, "the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people."
He said, "the current siege on the Leadership Newspaper by the SSS is the latest in recent list of intolerability displayed by President Umaru Yar'Adua's administration towards the Press.
"Not long ago, we witnessed the unjust closure of Channels T.V, when a simple refutal of the story by the Presidency would have sufficed."
"The recent arrest and detention of Jonathan Elendu and Emmanuel Asiwe, both on-line journalists, is still fresh in our memory."
"Their offence(s) have not been made known. They were not charged to court. We are also aware that a popular programme on A.I.T, anchored by veteran journalist, Gbenga Aruleba, Focus Nigeria, has been proscribed by the Federal Government."
"The irresistible conclusion we can draw is that the Yar'Adua administration has refused to be an Open Regime where the flow of information is always guaranteed, leading to all kinds of speculations by the Press."
"The monthly media chat that was done by the Obasanjo regime, where burning issues could be addressed, have been shelved. The media advisers of the President are certainly not living up to expectations." Keyamo said, and called on all Nigerians and the Press to stand up and "resist these unconstitutional restrictions and actions by the Yar'Adua administration against the Press Now before it is too late."
"The President should also come clean by publishing a true account (with documentary evidence) of every aspect about his person or his administration, to save us these unnecessary embarrassments," Keyamo noted.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, a media focused Non-Governmental Organisation has condemned in strong terms, what it called the serial harrassment unleashed on Nigerian media workers by the security operatives especially the State Security Service (SSS).
It asserted that the actions of the security operatives are undermining the smooth growth of durable democracy, respect for the human rights of Nigerians and the rule of law.
The rights group particularly singled out the recent and ongoing arrests and interrogations by the SSS of some senior editors of LEADERSHIP Newspaper in connection with its recent report on the health of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and his alleged absence from some high profile state functions.
Specifically, the publisher of Leadership, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah and two of his key editorial staff were detained at the weekend for questioning regarding the said publication.
HURIWA's National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, who advised journalists to always cross check their facts before going to the press however berated the SSS for taking the much condemned path of self-help by unnecesarily harrassing the journalists in a desperate bid to find out whether the story was lkinked to any opposition politician as alleged by the president's spokesman.