The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) has demanded that the safety of journalists in EbonyiStatebe ensured following a declaration by the Governor, Mr. David Umahi, that he could no longer guarantee the safety of journalists in the state
The Guild called on President Muhammad Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to ensure the safety of journalists in Ebonyi State noting with concern that Mr. Umahi’s statement came after ChijiokeAgwu of The Sun and Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspapers respectively were arrested by state agents over reports authored by them.
Umahi even placed a life ban on the two reporters from entering and covering Ebonyi Government House and activities.
Announcing the ban, the governor accused the journalists of creating panic in the states and that the people may unleash mayhem on them.
GOCOP said it strongly condemns the unconstitutional ban and allegation that journalists were creating panic in Ebonyi, saying “Coming from the person who swore to protect the lives of everybody under his watch, the governor’s statement is quite unfortunate.” It added that the manner of the journalists’ arrest, harassment and subsequent release is a sad reminder of the dark days of military rule in Nigeria.
It pointed out that being one of the poorest states in Nigeria, Ebonyi urgently needs to experience the much-touted “dividends of democracy,” and that harassing journalists and threatening that harm will come to them, is the last thing the long-suffering people deserve from their governor.
The Guild told the governor that if he feels aggrieved at the activities of journalists, he is advised to seek civilised legal options available to every Nigerian citizen, pointing out that resorting to self-help and threat is counter-productive.
GOCOP reminded Governor Umahi that the democracy on which platform he rode into power was made possible by journalists, some of whom sacrificed their lives.
Working in the uncertain atmosphere created by COVID-19 coronavirus, GOCOP reminded the governor, is challenging enough for journalists across Nigeria and working under threat to their lives is double jeopardy.
GOCOP therefore, called on Governor Umahi to apologise to the affected journalists and the entire Nigerian media, and on President Buhari and IGP Adamu to ensure that journalists, particularly those operating in Ebonyi State, are not harmed in the course of doing their jobs.