Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned “the blatant intimidation, harassment and attacks on journalists and media houses by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, and the illegal banning of the Correspondent of The Sun newspaper, Chijioke Agwu, and the Vanguard Newspaper, Peter Okutu, from entering Government house and Government facilities in the State for life.”
The journalists and media houses have been reportedly banned over a report on the Lassa Fever outbreak in the state.
Reacting, SERAP in a statement by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “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.”
The statement read, in part: “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.”
“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 undermines Nigeria’s pledges on democratic reforms and the rule of law and must stop now.”