11 December 2012

Nigeria: NUJ Demands Apology From Akwa Ibom, SSS Over Assault On Journalists

Following constant harassment of journalists by security operatives in Akwa Ibom State, the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) yesterdayMonday demanded unreserved apology from the state government and the Director of State Security Services (SSS) in the state within four days.

Also, the Correspondent Chapel of the NUJ in the state has urged its members to boycott the Golden Jubilee Lecture in honour of Governor Godswill Akpabio's 50th birthday over the assault on the state correspondent of The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Kazeem Ibrahym, by officers of the SSS during the Church Service to mark Akpabio's birthday last Sunday.

Addressing journalists at the Correspondents' Chapel office, the state chairman of the union, Mr. Joe Effiong, noted with dismay the constant embarrassment of journalists in the state, especially during state functions by security operatives.

He expressed dismay that journalists, including Ibrahym, who went to cover the 50th birthday celebration of Akpabio on invitation were manhandled and beaten to near death by the SSS, saying the union was demanding an unreserved apology from the government and the security agency.

"We demand unreserved apology from the state government. We also demand an unreserved apology from the Director of SSS in state, and from the media managers in the state.

"Although, some of them (media managers) were also harassed at the event, we were responding to their own invitation. If you come to my house and my security man harasses you, it is my own responsibility to make amends, even though I never asked the security man to do that.

"So if we went to government house on invitation and we are harassed by security in government house, I think it is also the responsibility of government to apologise to us. So we demand unreserved apology from the State Government," he maintained.

Effiong, who condemned last Sunday's attack on journalists, stressed that the union may be constrained to take action to protect the rights of its members, if the apologies were not tendered on Thursday, when the state congress of NUJ will hold.

According to him, journalists are not struggling anything with the SSS and wondered why they that are paid by the Federal Government would find it comfortable to be attacking journalists now and then, whose pay hangs on the balance.

"Government cannot run away from this. If government showed concern about the activities of security operatives in the past, I believe that this would have stopped. So they see it as a norm to get journalists beaten at government house.

"So we say that enough is enough. We expect their apologies tomorrow or at congress, but if they don't whatever decision will be taken at congress will be binding on all of us.

"We are having State Congress on Thursday. By Thursday, we expect the State Director of SSS and the Commissioner for Information to come to our congress and tender apologies and give us the assurance that this nonsense will not repeat itself. If they do not come, I believe, at that congress, a decision will be taken on the State and Security agency over the rights of the union," Effiong said.

He, however, pleaded with his members, especially those in the Correspondent chapel and other chapels to remain calm and support the union in its bid to tackle the problem.

The chapel recalled incidences of abuse of journalists recently by the SSS and expressed grave concern even as they appealed the state council to intervene and protect its members.

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