Media Rights Agenda (MRA) yesterday lauded the decision of Akwa Ibom State governor Godswill Akpabio and State Director of the State Security Service (SSS) Toma Minti to investigate and punish those responsible for brutalising Mr Kazeem Ibrahim, the correspondent of The Nation newspaper.
In a statement in Lagos, the organization further called on both the governor and the State Director of the SSS to demonstrate their seriousness over the matter by immediately suspending the two SSS officers being investigated, pending the completion of the investigation.
MRA argued that it is only by so doing that the governor and the SSS can convince the public that their promise of an investigation is not a ruse to simply calm the aggrieved parties down and then proceed to sweep the matter under the carpet.
It said by suspending the affected SSS officials, they would also be sending a strong message to other security and law enforcement officials that they can no longer attack and brutalize journalists with impunity.
MRA's Executive Director Mr Edetaen Ojo explained that although the organization was not opposed to an investigation as a first step in gathering all the facts and establishing precisely what happened, for possible legal, criminal or disciplinary action against the named SSS officials, there was absolutely no doubt that they brutalized Mr Ibrahim in a most barbaric manner.
He argued that if either the Governor or the SSS Director had any doubt about this, they would not have readily apologised to Mr Ibrahim and other journalists.
"A journalist does not need to be specially invited to an event before he can exercise his right as a journalist to cover the event. The duty of a journalist is to gather news and information in a lawful manner, wherever he or she may find it, whether invited or not. Even if the SSS officers felt that Mr. Ibrahim was not invited, their response was most inappropriate and barbaric. It is only by taking strong measures to demonstrate their disapproval of such conduct that the relevant authorities can truly show that they do not condone the action."
Mr Ibrahim was brutalized by SSS operatives in Akwa Ibom State on December 9, 2012 at a banquet hosted by the state government as part of Governor Akpabio's 50th birthday anniversary celebrations.
The reporter, who went to Government House, Uyo, at the invitation of the governor's Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ukpe, was beaten to unconsciousness by two SSS operatives, Charles Anyanwu and Shola Agagu, following his objection over the rude manner he was treated at the entrance to the banquet hall.