People’s Gazette/NIA Face off: HEDA Excoriates Media Harassment, Calls For Restraint

The Human Environmental & Development Agenda (HEDA) has lent its voice (among other enemies of oppression, intimidation and suppression in the society) against the undeserved incursion into the premises of the People’s Gazette (an online Medium) in Abuja by some operatives the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The Chairman of HEDA, Suraju Olanrewaju in a statement chided the action of NIA which he described as uncalled for and violates the most basic rights of journalists to protect sources of information and clear operation of the NIA outside its mandate.

According to him, this is one among many kind of intimidation and deliberate act targeted to gag the media by this administration. He said, “The fate of journalists and activists in Nigeria have worsened steadily in recent years, which is now by far the most repressive and most precarious country for reporters in West Africa.

“Many Journalists have been killed, some disappeared while others are practicing their constitutional profession with fear because of the odious attitude of some state actors who are bent on fighting against the truth. These acts are unhealthy for our democracy as no nation muzzles the media and survive,”

Recall that some Officers of NIA barged into the headquarters of the online Platform demanding to see the managing editor and a reporter with the aim of identifying its source for a leaked confidential memo questioning the head of the agency’s qualifications for the job, but neither the managing editor nor the reporter were there when the raid took place.

The leaked memo to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari from unidentified NIA Directors claimed that the NIA’s current Director General, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, was compulsorily retired from the agency in 2012 after failing examinations for promotion from the position of Deputy Director to Director three times in a row. The NIA officials handed a letter to the journalists present criticising People’s Gazette for failing to contact the agency to verify the memo’s authenticity and threatening to use “other options” if the website did not hand over its copy of the memo and identify those who wrote it.

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In a response published on the site, People’s Gazette said it did not doubt the memo’s authenticity and reported that President Buhari’s spokesman had confirmed to the website that the president had received the memo.

HEDA added, “We strongly condemn the pressure being mounted on this media outlet, which violates the most basic rights of journalists. For an intelligence agency, saddled with foreign intelligence services, to carry out a raid on a news organisation in order to identify a source with the sole aim of protecting its own interests is extremely parlous. We call on the authorities to stop this harassment of this site, which is constantly subjected to pressure and threats because of the quality of its reporting and the serious subjects it seeks to addresses.”

“We also call on NIA and or other organizations (private or Public) to reverse any action taken to deny the Public access to the website of the People’s Gazette. Every Nigerian has right to access information from any source in line with FOI Act of 2011 and nobody should be denied that right under any guise,” he asseverated.

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