Ebonyi Transparency and Accountability Network (E-TAN), a forum of professionals of Ebonyi State origin resident in Nigeria and in Diaspora, has condemned the harassment of journalists working in the state by the state government.
In a statement signed by its President, Ikechukwu Okogwu, the group said it had keenly “followed incidents as reported on Nigerian mainstream media with respect to successive arrests of two journalists in Ebonyi State; firstly, Chijioke Agwu of The Sun Newspaper on Saturday 18th April, 2020 and secondly, Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspaper on Tuesday 21st April, 2020; as ordered by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi and the Ohaukwu LGA Chairman, Clement Odah, respectively.”
The statement reads, “We learned that both arrests were carried out following alleged false reports made by both correspondents on behalf of the above Newspapers and that they were however, released afterwards. These incidents were followed by a life ban of both reporters from the Government House or any government facility in the State, by the Governor of Ebonyi State.
We note that there are acceptable civil and legal channels for individuals, groups and governments to follow in addressing any perceived infringement with respect to falsehood or defamation by any media outfit. Our expectation was that the Government of Ebonyi State and the Ohaukwu LGA Chairman should have exploited those channels in the circumstances, rather than resort to arrest of the reporters using security operatives.
“We therefore condemn both arrests as arbitrary and assaults on press freedom, both journalists and the Newspapers which they represent. We also condemn the arbitrariness in the subsequent life ban from the Government House or any government facility in the State, as placed on the duo by the Governor of Ebonyi State.
“We therefore appeal to the Government of Ebonyi State and Ohaukwu Local Government to review their actions and position on the matter, with a view to: Mending fences with both arrested journalists and the Newspapers which they represent; exploring proper civil and legal channels for addressing any purported falsehood or defamation in the reportage by the reporters and Newspapers involved.
“These measures will ensure that the media and journalists conduct their activities professionally in Ebonyi State without fear of harassment or undue victimization.
“They will also foster the complementary relationship between the press and governmental authorities in the development and sustenance of any given democratic system, bringing to fore developmental activities, milestones and challenges of the State.
“We reiterate our commitment to ensuring transparency, accountability and ultimately good governance in Ebonyi State, and pledge our support to and cooperation with stakeholders who pursue similar goals.”