By Monsuru Olowoopejo
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, decision to impose a ban on pressmen over reports on Lassa Fever outbreak in the state.
Before the ban, Umahi was said to have allegedly intimidated, harassed, and ordered attacks on journalists assigned by the media houses to report activities within the state over the reports on Lassa fever outbreak that caused panic among residents.
Some of the journalists affected by the governor’s directives were Correspondent of The Sun newspaper, Chijioke Agwu, and the Vanguard Newspaper, Peter Okutu, and have been banned from entering any government facilities in the State.
SERAP, in a statement by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, stated that the action by the governor was at variance with freedom of the press in the country.
“This action is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party. We will pursue appropriate legal action nationally and internationally against Ebonyi State authorities if this illegality is not reversed within 48 hours of the publication of this statement.
“Nigerians expect their leaders to show a greater level of transparency and accountability and to explain and take responsibility for what they are doing rather than threatening, intimidating, harassing, and banning journalists and media houses from covering their public functions. These journalists and media houses are simply doing their work and playing their constitutional roles.
“The ban clearly runs counter to the notion of a free marketplace of ideas, necessary to serve the best interests of the public. Barring journalists undermine Nigeria’s pledges on democratic reforms and the rule of law and must stop now.
“We urge Governor David Umahi to show a greater level of transparency and accountability by immediately reversing the purported ban, and allowing journalists and media houses to freely cover the activities of his government”, the organisation added.