LAGOS, Friday, December 14, 2012: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today welcomed the decision of Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio and the Director of the State Security Service (SSS) in the State, Toma Minti, to investigate and punish those responsible for brutalising Mr. Kazeem Ibrahym, the Akwa Ibom State Correspondent of The Nation newspaper.
The organization, however, called on both the Governor and the State Director of the SSS to demonstrate their seriousness over the matter by immediately suspending the two SSS officers being investigated, pending the completion of the investigation.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA insisted that the affected SSS officials should not be allowed to resume duties until the investigations have been concluded and a decision taken on the matter.
MRA argued that it is only by so doing that the Governor and the SSS can convince the public that their promise of an investigation is not a ruse to simply calm the aggrieved parties down and then proceed to sweep the matter under the carpet.
It said by suspending the affected SSS officials, they would also be sending a strong message to other security and law enforcement officials that they can no longer attack and brutalize journalists with impunity.
MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, explained that although the organization was not opposed to an investigation as a first step in gathering all the facts and establishing precisely what happened, for possible legal, criminal or disciplinary action against the named SSS officials, there was absolutely no doubt that they brutalized Mr. Ibrahym in a most barbaric manner. He argued that if the either the Governor or the SSS Director had any doubt about this, they would not have readily apologised to Mr. Ibrahym and other journalists in the State.
He said: “There can be no justification for the action of the SSS operatives, especially the brutality meted out to a journalist in the course of his professional duties, even if they are able to establish that he was not officially invited to the event, which appears to be their only excuse.”
According to Mr. Ojo, “A journalist does not need to be specially invited to an event before he can exercise his right as a journalist to cover the event. The duty of a journalist is to gather news and information in a lawful manner, wherever he or she may find it, whether invited or not. Even if the SSS officers felt that Mr. Ibrahym was not invited, their response was most inappropriate and barbaric. It is only by taking strong measures to demonstrate their disapproval of such conduct that the relevant authorities can truly show that they do not condone the action.”
MRA also commended the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for its decisive and timely action to defend and vindicate the rights of its members through its very vigorous protest.
However, the organization called on the NUJ not to be hoodwinked by the official pep-talk but to remain vigilant and engaged on the issue in order to ensure that a credible and transparent investigation is conducted into the matter.
Mr. Ibrahym was brutalized by SSS operatives in Akwa Ibom State on December 9, 2012 at a banquet hosted by the state government as part of Governor Akpabio’s 50th birthday anniversary celebrations
The reporter, who went to Government House, Uyo, at the invitation of the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ukpe, was beaten to unconsciousness by two SSS operatives, Charles Anyanwu and Shola Agagu, following his objection over the rude manner he was treated at the entrance to the banquet hall.
Governor Akpabio and the State Director of the SSS apologized to Mr. Ibrahym and other journalists in the State on Tuesday and assured them that the government and the security agency would investigate the matter and punish the perpetrators.
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