The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to ensure the safety of journalists in Ebonyi State.
The Guild made the call on Thursday in reaction to the declaration by Governor David Umahi that he could no longer guarantee the safety of journalists in the state.
GOCOP noted with concern that Mr. Umahi’s statement came after Chijioke Agwu and Peter Okutu of The Sun and Vanguard Newspapers respectively were arrested by state agents over reports authored by them.
Umahi even placed a life ban on the reporters from entering and covering Ebonyi Government House.
In announcing the ban, the governor accused the journalists of creating panic in the states and that the people may unleash mayhem on them.
GOCOP strongly condemned the unconstitutional ban and allegation that journalists were creating panic in Ebonyi.
Coming from the person who swore to protect the lives of everybody under his watch, the governor’s statement is quite unfortunate.
The manner of the journalists’ arrest, harassment and subsequent release is a sad reminder of the dark days of military rule in Nigeria.
Being one of the poorest states in Nigeria, Ebonyi urgently needs to experience the much-touted “dividends of democracy”.
Harassing journalists and threatening that harm will come to them is the last thing the long-suffering people deserve from their governor.
If he feels aggrieved at the activities of journalists, Umahi is advised to seek civilised legal options available to every Nigerian citizen,GOCOP said.
Resorting to self-help and threat is counter-productive.
GOCOP reminded Governor Umahi that the democracy on which platform he rode into power was made possible by journalists, some of whom sacrificed their lives.
Working in the uncertain atmosphere created by COVID-19 coronavirus is challenging enough for journalists across Nigeria.
Working under threat to their lives is double jeopardy.
GOCOP, therefore, called on Governor Umahi to apologise to the affected journalists and the entire Nigerian media.
The Guild also called on President Buhari and IGP Adamu to ensure that journalists, particularly in Ebonyi State, are not harmed in the course of doing their jobs.