…Attack on the press is an attack on democracy – NUJ
Steve Oko, Aba
Newspapers and Magazines Distributors Association of Nigeria, Aba chapter, has decried harassments and unwarranted arrests of their members as well as confiscation of their newspapers by security agents especially the police and soldiers.
The Chairman of the association, Mr Ike C. Ike, who addressed newsmen at the secretariat of Aba Federated Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), alleged that security agents in the commercial city had made newspaper vendors “targets of extortion.”
He wondered why newspaper vendors doing their legitimate business should be treated like common criminals when they had done nothing to incur the wrath of security operatives.
According to him, “any time there is a security challenge in Aba, police and soldiers, most especially police will start harassing vendors, confiscating national and regional newspapers”.
The incessant intimidations, he said, “makes vendors in Aba to live in constant fears”.
He described newspaper distributors as partners in progress with journalists and publishers on information dissemination, stressing that
Ike lamented that any time there was a crisis between security agents and the masses, newspaper vendors would be made to pay the price.
His words:” Please help tell our predicaments to the world because newspaper distributors are partners in progress with Journalists and publishers on information distribution.
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” What we sell to readers and customers are not our products but products of registered national dailies.
“You all represent different national dailies and broadcast stations and you are the voice of the voiceless and we need your help.
“You all can see that no national or regional newspaper is selling well in Aba again because of these harassments.
“Vendors are now afraid of opening their stands. We want to ask, is our business now illegal? Is selling Newspapers now a crime?
“And from what we’ve gathered, this problem is only in Aba. Why should security agencies see vendors as their problem?
“Last week when a police station was burnt, police came to a stand at MCC road and packed all the national dailies, magazines and other regional newspapers there. What is our crime? He agonised.
The vendors’ boss further lamented the economic implications of their plight, saying that their members now find it difficult to cater for their families.
He equally lamented harassments by revenue agents and called on Gov Okezie Ikpeazu to come to their rescue.
“Even government revenue contractors have also joined in making the sell of newspapers impossible. What is really happening here?
“We need help. From Brass Junction, MCC Junction, Alaoji and Ogbor-Hill, no newspaper stand is safe from harassment anymore.
” They will carry these papers and will not tell us the stations they came from. We cannot even retrieve our papers anymore.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Aba Federated Chapel of NUJ, Mr Godfrey Ofurum, has strongly condemned the sad development and called on security agencies to rein in their men.
He said that both the press and the security agencies should work in harmony as partners in progress in the interest of society.
“If the police have anything for the masses, they need the press. If police and other security agencies should suppress the press in Aba, they have not done well.”
He, therefore, called on the Service Chiefs in the state as well as the State Government to quickly address the issue as an attack on the press amounts to attacks on democracy.
Meanwhile, when contacted, the Commissioner of Police, Abia State, Mrs Janet Agbede, denied any knowledge of the allegations.
She, however, promised to investigate the matter.