By Bolaji Buhari
The Nigerian Guild Editors (NGE) has condemned Sunday’s invasion of the offices of Media Trust Ltd., the Publishers of Daily Trust, by the military over alleged breach of national security in its publications.
The NGE, in a statement jointly signed by its President, Mrs Funke Egbemode and Publicity Secretary, Mr Ken Ugbeche, on Monday in Lagos, described the action as an attack on the media and a threat to democracy.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that military operatives had on Sunday reportedly stormed the Maiduguri, Lagos and Abuja offices of the media outfit, sealing the premises and taking away some journalists and equipment.
The army had, in statement, said it took the step in the interest of national security as the organisation, in its Sunday titles, published stories that undermined the on-going insurgency war.
The Guild, however, said the action was not expected of the military in a democracy, especially as it amounted to the intimidation of the media which had always partnered it.
It said that the explanation of the military that the media outfit breached the official Secret Acts in its reportage of troops’ operations against Boko Haram was not enough justification for the action.
The NGE called for the immediate release of the detained journalists, while urging the military authorities to tender an unreserved apology to Trust Media Ltd., for the action.
“The crude invasion, intimidation and arrest of journalists discharging their constitutional duties in the Maiduguri Zonal office is not the type of story befitting of the military in a democracy.
“The picture painted by this brutal and primitive incursion into the workplace of a media organisation in a democracy in the 21st century not only does incalculable damage to the psyche of Nigerians, young and old.
“It also de-markets the country before the rest of the world.
“The manner of this operation hatched with precision and coordinated fashion at three different locations shows that it was planned and painstakingly executed for maximum effect.
“It is a throwback to the dark days of the military rule, an era Nigerians do not remember with an ounce of nostalgia.
“The Guild condemns this uncouth affront on Media Trust and by extension the Nigerian media, which has enjoyed liberal reportage and partnership from the same media it is trying to muzzle.
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested journalists while we welcome the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari who has ordered the vacation of the premises of Trust Media Ltd. by soldiers.
“We also demand an unreserved apology to Media Trust Ltd. by the military authorities,” NGE said.
It said that if the Trust Media had erred in any way, the military should have dealt with the issue in a way that would not violate the constitutional rights of the organisation and its staff.
The editors, however, assured the military of the unflinching support of the media on its war against insurgency and its efforts to protect lives and properties.
NGE also urged the military to always see the media as partners in progress and uphold best democratic practices in its operations in handling issues with the media.