The Presidency said on Saturday that President Goodluck Jonathan was not involved in the seizure of newspapers while justifying the action of the military.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who stated this at a press briefing in Abuja on Saturday, said the President was not part of the plan to seize newspapers.
Okupe said the there was no way President Jonathan would engage or encourage any act that could constitute an assault on any media organisation or infringe on the freedom of the press.
He said, “The news publications suggested that President Goodluck Jonathan might have ordered that the media be suppressed and prevented from carrying out their constitutionally guaranteed responsibilities of holding government accountable to the people.
“The military has explained that the checks followed intelligence reports on the possibility of some elements within the society using such vehicles to convey materials with grave security implications across the country.
“You cannot neglect security threats because we are living in trying times,” he added, but said the clampdown would be a temporary measure and appealed to the media houses and affected stakeholders to view the action in the light of the security challenges confronting the nation.
Meanwhile, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria has condemned the continued harassment of newspaper vendors/distributors and seizures of packs of newspapers by the military.
According to the NPAN, the harassment of newspaper vendors and distributors is violation of freedom of speech.
In a statement issued on Saturday following a meeting of the association with representatives of vendors and distributors, the newspaper proprietors said, “The NPAN unequivocally condemns this attack of free speech by soldiers, in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri, and Ibadan amongst other cities, claiming to be acting on ‘orders’.
“This assault on freedom of expression through the stoppage of distribution of newspapers is inconsistent with the values of any democratic society and the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria. We therefore call upon the military authorities to lift the siege immediately and call the soldiers to order,” the statement said.
Assuring readers, the NPAN said the media would not be intimidated by the government’s unprovoked attacks on the press.