Abuja — The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to stories in some major newspapers today Saturday 7th June 2014 to the effect that the Federal Government has ordered a clampdown on Media Houses as a result of some isolated incidents of security checks reportedly carried out on some newspaper delivery vans in the last few days.
The news publications suggested that President Goodluck Jonathan might have ordered that the Media be suppressed and prevented from carrying out their constitutionally guaranteed responsibilities of holding Government accountable to the people.
We wish to state categorical that these reports are untrue, unfair and totally not in consonance with the posture of Mr President on issues concerning Press freedom. The Media, as the fourth estate of the realm is held in very high regards by the President and this has been practically demonstrated in various ways by this administration in the last three years.
Gentlemen of the Press will recall that it was President Goodluck Jonathan who signed the very contentious Freedom of Information Bill into law immediately on assumption of office and has consistently espoused the principles of openness, accountability and liberalism in its relationship with the Media at all times.
The reported incidence of checks being carried out by the Military on major Nigerian roads and cities is not targeted at Newspaper vans because of the contents of the publications as insinuated in the reports. Rather, the Military had explained that those routine checks were being carried out following intelligence reports on the possibility of some elements within the society using such vehicles to convey “materials with grave security implications across the country”.
While we sympathize with Media Houses which might have suffered one discomfort or the other as a result of these security checks, we assert, for the avoidance of doubt that the President has not and will never give any order capable of hampering the smooth running of any Media Organization or harass Media practitioners in the lawful performance of their duties.
This government will neither engage in nor encourage any acts that will constitute an assault on any Media Organization or infringe on the Freedom of the Press.
We have received assurances from the Military that no personal liberties of Media practitioners or their employees will be unlawfully tampered with and that as soon as there is significant reduction in the level of the security alert, the ongoing exercise will be relaxed.
We live in very trying times which may necessitate that some section or sectors of the society might experience some temporary discomfort in the overall interest of ensuring that the ideals of freedom, peace and security which we all hold dear will not be compromised by a few unscrupulous elements in our midst. Thank You
Dr Doyin Okupe is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs