By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A pro-democracy and human rights Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Concerned Nigerians, CN, weekend, condemned alleged arrest and harassment of a practicing journalist, Yahaya Usman, by the Niger State Government on alleged refusal to reveal the source of the report.
According to the statement of CN which was signed by the Convener, Deji Adeyanju, the Niger State Government claimed that a classified official document was published by Usman on his blog and social media platform, and the Niger State Government demanded the source of Usman’s report, which is against media ethics that sources are not to be disclosed.
The statement also decried the alleged action by the Niger State Government for harassing and detaining Usman in the petition of the Chief of Staff to the Niger State Governor written to the Nigerian Police Force, Niger State Command.
It further stated that the Chief of Staff further asked the police to investigate Mr. Usman’s ‘Source’ of such classified official document. Mr. Usman was detained yesterday night and the police are pressuring him to disclose the source of his information. It is trite law that journalists are not under any obligation to disclose their sources of information.
It added that Usman is one of the best, ethical and professional journalists in Nigeria, and his harassment and planned arrest is anti-democratic and affront on press freedom.
The statement reads in part, “Concerned Nigerians, a pro-democracy and human rights group has condemned the harassment of journalist, Mr. Yahaya Usman by Niger State Government over a published report on his blog and social media.
“We are concerned that the authorities will write a petition to the police, calling for the investigation of a journalist’s source carrying out his duty as an independent journalist.
“The authorities at all levels must know that press freedom is one of the building blocks of every democratic society. Without it, we’re not the same country. Nigerians, regardless of their political beliefs, have the right to do their job without being hounded, the group said.
“The current trend of harassing and arresting journalists suggests that state governments in Nigeria are trying to silence the critical voice by waging a silent war against journalists on trumped-up charges for their critical reporting regarding the activities of the government.
“The Chief of Staff to the Governor of Niger State had in a petition signed by his Personal Assistant to the Police, alleged that Mr. Yahaya Mohammed Usman posted official secret on his social media platforms.
“The Supreme Court in Tony Momoh vs The Senate and several other cases have re-emphasized this. It is important to re-emphasize this important ingredient of democracy by quoting section 22 of our constitution: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people. The media remains the most credible watchdog of our democracy and all citizens must resist attempts to gag its.
“We condemn the incessant harassment and unlawful arrest of journalists and dissenting voices in Nigeria. These acts are a violation of the public’s right to know.”
The statement concluded that the essential watchdog role of the media in democratic societies entails giving practitioners the highest degree of protection in order to perform their constitutional and civil roles to hold public officials accountable, hence the Niger state government and Nigerian authorities should accord them that same importance freely.