Nigerian soldiers descended on several media outposts on Friday morning confiscating and destroying copies of the Punch, Leadership and the Nation newspapers destined for the north and southern parts of the country. Defending its action, the military claimed that intelligence indicated that materials with grave security implications were being moved across the country through newsprint related consignments.
We are miffed by this exhibition of crass impunity. This action by the military is a threat to democracy. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) sees dark and dangerous days ahead as we approach the 2015 general elections.
The question is what is the military trying to hide? If they get away with this they will get away with anything. Civil society should rise today and challenge this assault on freedom of expression. Nobody can be free if the press is not free. As the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the press plays the vital role of defending democracy and civil liberties. The press is the voice of the voiceless and the numero uno in the defence line of the citizenry. This latest attack is an attempt to stop the press from playing that role. It is a blatant rape on democracy.
By attacking media outfits and by seizing and destroying copies of newspapers, the military has employed brute force to infringe on the freedom of the press. The soldiers have also manifested gross disrespect for the rule of law. The attack also exposes the hollowness of assurances about the military’s respect for democracy and its readiness to bow to civilian authority. This operation has shown that the military institution is still neck-deep in disgust for civilized behavior and denial of civil liberties.
MURIC calls on the affected newspapers to challenge this action in court and to seek damages. We call on the people’s representatives in the National Assembly to probe this ugly incident immediately. Above all, we charge the press to refuse to be intimidated. It is one of the hazards of the noble profession of journalism. The media must not bow to the barbaric onslaught of Babylon.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)