An American-based Nigerian professor of journalism, Chris Wolumati Ogbondah, has condemned last week’s bombingof ThisDay, The Sun and Moment newspaper houses, describing it as an attack against the foundation of Nigeria’s embryonic democratic structure.
Professor Ogbondah who is the Coordinator of the Mass Communications programme in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, noted that the bombings of the three media houses and the sect’s threats to bomb more media houses in the future amounted to attacks against freedom of the press, and the rights of Nigerians to be informed.
“These attacks were not aimed to destroy the messenger (the press) as they were aimed to destroy the message. It shows a lack of respect for the inalienable right of freedom of the press as provided for in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and disregard for Article 9 as provided for in African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”, the Prof stated.
According to Ogbondah, the idea behind the bombings was similar to the parcel-bombing of Dele Giwa in October 1986 which was intended to destroy the late NewsWatch editor-in-chief’s message to Nigerians.
The university don whose books, Military regimes and the press in Nigeria, 1966 to 1993; and State-press relations in Nigeria, 1993 to 1998 critically analyzed the tribulations of the Nigerian press under various military dictatorships, pointed out that the attacks on media houses added to the catalogue of the tribulations of the Nigerian press in Nigeria’s recent socio-political history.
He dismissed the reason provided for bombing of the media houses as lacking in validity. “How will they accuse the media of unfair, biased and one-sided reportage of their activities when in fact the media has given interviews to their members, and aired their viewpoints?”, Ogbondah querried.
“Instead of taking laws into its hands and unleashing attacks on the media, it should avail itself of the opportunity to access media practitioners to correct any misrepresentations of its activities in the press.”
He noted that arbitrary and extra-judicial actions against the press and journalists in the forms of arbitrary detention of media personnel and confiscation of newspapers and other media products by government security officers and other state officials largely accounted for low-ranking of the Nigerian press on world press freedom scale.
“Currently, the Nigerian press is not ranked as free. This is largely due to attacks against the press by overzealous police and other security officers”, he observed.