Nigerian government attacks PREMIUM TIMES, SaharaReporters over reports on security operations

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Nigerian government attacks PREMIUM TIMES, SaharaReporters over reports on security operations

Federal authorities in Abuja, Friday, launched a stern attack on PREMIUM TIMES in what appears to be a creeping onslaught on independent national voices.

Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who spoke of the federal government’s “utmost displeasure” with the social media community, pointed accusing fingers broadly at “some online media reportage” but singled for particular attack, Premium Times, and news website, SaharaReporters, that he claimed were “publishing reports capable of undermining military strategy against extremists, and stir mutiny within the military.” He offered no single example or particular reference to his sweeping accusations.

Mr. Maku’s attack came, however, in the intersection of two compelling policy challenges facing the administration: a desperate urge to regulate the internet and the social media landscape, on the one hand, and a way to manage a string of operational slip ups in the ongoing anti-terror campaign, the latest which was the extra-judicial murder of about seven young men in the Apo neighbourhood in Abuja.

Speaking in Osogbo, Osun state, where he attended the 44th National Council on Information with the theme “Social Media and Public Information Management,” Mr. Maku, a former newspaper editor, claimed that both PREMIUM TIMES and Sahara Reporters “frequently publish online reports deliberately contrived to undermine military strategy, demoralise our troops, or even cause incitement to mutiny.”

“This is unacceptable,” Mr. Maku, now supervising minister for the defence ministry ominiously promised his audience, not disclosing what the administration plans to do.  The comment was later emailed to news organizations in a statement signed by his aide, Joseph Mutah.

But in a swift reaction, PREMIUM TIMES refuted Mr. Maku’s claims, and described the administration’s action as a scheme to blackmail and intimidate independent media voices from performing the important role of holding government and its officials accountable.

PREMIUM TIMES’ Managing Editor, Musikilu Mojeed, spoke of “the professional integrity, the deep sense of accuracy, balance, and fairness that define the news ethics” of the newspaper, but regretted that the paper “could not apologise if its uncompromising independence created discomfort for officials in the corridors of power.”

“The commitment to a democratic, accountable and transparent nation, that assumes its place of pride in the comity of nations is our well advertised position, and we cannot be persuaded that the sacrifices we make for the nation are inferior to the daily claims made by public officials” Mr. Mojeed said.

He added: “when we expose government’s neglect of Nigerian troops on mission, as well as the violations by security forces confronting the brutal insurgency of Boko Haram, we do not come with a sense of diminished national or patriotic spirit. We speak for the higher ideals that define the aspirations of the best among our compatriots.”

As an investigative reporting medium, PREMIUM TIMES has maintained a lead role in reporting massive corruption in high places, gross violations of human rights by state and non-state actors, as well as regulatory failures that have put citizens at the short end of the policy and governance stick in the country.

Mr. Mojeed said he understood that the paper will not be the darling of those in power, but urged the minister to restrain in using his position of power and privilege to abridge and abuse the honoured right to freedom of expression of citizens, and to remember that “the history of our land and of many nations of the globe have proved that governments work best only when they see the media as partners in the progress of building a virile nation and stable democracy.”

He said he was therefore pleased to hear from Mr. Maku’s remarks that “the government believed in media freedom and will not gag any medium.” Mr. Mojeed assured its readers that PREMIUM TIMES will always exhibited a sense professionalism and discretion in its reporting, and would continue to do so while upholding the people’s right to know.

He said: “We love Nigeria, our nation, and care even more about the welfare and security of our men and women in uniform, among whom we have parents, siblings, and relations. Coming with this type of unalloyed commitment, then, it is unacceptable that people will imagine that our concerns are negotiable.”

“We see ourselves as a public trust which owes its readers and the Nigerian people the honoured promise of truth, accountability, and commitment to true democracy. We cannot pretend to appreciate intimidation and blackmail in this process”, he said.

  • Abdul

    The way to know a good media house is one in which the government is not happy with. Let maku come out with facts and deny you people’s stories. That is what we want to see. Kudos Premium Times jare.

  • armrod

    I am a very ardent supporter of Goodluck Jonathan and its administration but I must say that Premium Times is very reasonable in their reportage.
    They are doing good job unlike Sahara Reporters.
    Sahara Reporters specialized in gossips and blackmail. They are very unreasonable and do take Nigerians as if we are fools.
    Because they report from America they think they are more exposed and intelligent they just report news not as if they care. They report news like people who are fortunate to live in America.
    Any time they don’t have news to maintain their readers they will create one claiming a source from presidency or they copy and paste news from premium Times.

    • PureNigerian

      They are more exposed and intelligent than you folks and juck jonalism from naija

    • Efe1

      Premium times and saharareporters post almost similar stories, so you miss the point.

      • Moses

        Stop talking like just a paid agent. Even if you are paid that doesn’t stop you from being frank sometimes. Now i doubt if you understand the difference btw Pt and Sahara.
        Premium Times has done many professional stories and I commend their high level of professionalism. I want to be frank I don’t always agree with them but I cannot take away from their depth and ethical reporting.

        • Efe1

          Is that all you can come up with? Me a paid agent?

          • Tunji Olarewaju

            What do you expect from the trash? He ‘s a member of the claque sequestered with our money at Sigma Apartments, Wuse, he believed he’s doing what he was paid to do :attack reasonable commentators online!
            Not to worry, their days are numbered

          • BiniMan

            why not just say what day job you have…you can then wear it as a badge of honour.

          • Efe1

            I hunt for people called Biniman, then harvest their balls!

      • Lucas

        “almost similar stories” does that mean they are bring in the same profession standards? Don’t make yourself a laughing stock sir.

        • Efe1

          My friend get a better job. Stop comparing saharareporters and premium news word for word. Almost similar means almost similar! Are you that easily confused? And who would be doing the laughing? You? Ride on my laughing jackass.

  • Horrison

    There has to be media responsibility to all stakeholders through accurate reporting based in investigation. Reporting becomes speculative when there is no verification. It can however be difficult in Nigeria to verify information despite the FOI Act. These days information communication is 24/7 and government needs to be proactive especially at times of great national challenge and not reactive.

    I am not aware that there is regular (several times a day) media briefings at the state house. If there is not, government should consider setting up a “situation room” to constantly brief and engage the media. This will reduce the level of speculative journalism In Nigeria particularly on national security matters. I have suggested that we should do away with the Ministry of Information as its statutory role is strange to FOI environment. The NTA should become independent and funded by the public via TV license just like the BBC so that it can challenge itself and evolve into a real giant institution doing real time news coverage and programming on Nigeria and around the world (particularly Africa). Maku should work with other stakeholders internationally on the best way to regulate social media but he should not seek to stifle it as we all at some point may require a robust media environment in years to come. We must look well beyond now!

    • Dan maikoko

      Forget it. The little mannequins in power are overwhelmed, the don’t have time for anything now. They are busy struggling to cover up the fact that the treasury is empty.

    • Tobibs

      What is UK doing in your name? Can’t take you seriously

      • Tunji Olarewaju

        Can’t you learn to keep quiet when you don’t have something meaningful to contribute? What has the UK in his name got to do with the points he raised? Since you choose to be a dunce, the UK in his name could as well be initials!

        • BlackieUmukoro

          Guessing not sure

          • Tunji Olarewaju

            Yes, of course

          • BlackieUmukoro

            Many thanks for the frank admission
            Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

  • Dan maikoko

    The 2 news outlets have passed the test of true journalism. During the days of dreaded ABACHA I don’t read a paper if its editor is walking the streets of Nigeria. I started reading guardian when Ibru was shot.
    There are people in Nigeria: those who read online journals like SaharaReporters and PT. There are also sheeple in Nigeria: those who listen to network news and read ThisDay.

  • PureNigerian

    So Maku, my news source should be NTA.
    Go sleep jor

  • Lanre

    Premium Times. So far, no one comes close to you guys. Keep the flag flying.

  • emmanuel

    True journalism is that which is devoid of being a government backer or working for those who have aspirations to take over government.

    Premium times is more of the later. Any comment that truly contradict a seemingly incorrect or biased editorial opinion is either immediately shuffled to the middle or not released, worst still immediately sent to the archives without apologies,

    We know!

    • solomon

      Oga abeg provide evidence to your accusations. You are suddenly sounding like Maku or even worse than him. An information minister makes accusations and provides no evidence to justify it.

  • Mohammed

    Mr. Maku forgets the lessons of history so soon? My former colleague at UNIJOS is learning to forget.

    This former fire-eating student leader and communist who, in dramatic turn around, has now assumed the position of a squealer for the regime in power may need to remember the last minister that sounded like him and what former regime has equated dissent to mutiny and treason.

    May I suggest that Maku goes back to the books and ask what became of the Abacha regime. The press so badly hounded has remained but the regime and its parrots have dissolved into the trash can of history.

  • goody

    PT, I salute your courage. Nigerian newspapers are failure and are readily bought. For instance, in Ondo state, this past week, the unpaid/ sacked Local Government workers demonstrated in the front of the Governor office in Akure. The press were there. I was expecting the newspapers to report the event, but nothing came out. They have been bought by Mimiko. To me, the Nigerian press are more corrupt than even the government officials. They are ruining our country and their children will reap abundantly the decadence their parent have sown.

  • domnze

    Those in power sometimes think they are more patriotic than the ordinary Nigerians whereas the reverse is the case. This may be true in other counties where the political structure favors self sacrifice by politicians but certainly not in Nigerian where public office is generally seen as an avenue to amass wealth. In my opinion a more worrying phenomenon is not news dished out by the media but often reported collusion with the terrorists by some of the national security agents and I believe that is where government scrutiny should be directed.

  • BlackieUmukoro

    Saharareporters quotes Premium times as their source all the time. All Maku is saying is that we should be circumspent in reporting security matters. Period

  • arise_9ja

    Go to Premium Times youtube channel and see how many El-Rufai interviews they have there. Sahara Reporters labelled TAPS “the most anticipated political memoir of the year” (na their papa anticipate that intellectual fraud). Do you need anyone to tell you that El-Rufai represents the core of GEJ opposition. Read PM and SR and all you’ll get is clueless, shoeless, kindergarten, jonathanian, drunk, boko haram, oil theft, corruption stories. I know the difference between Fox news and MSNBC…media campaign is part of politics.

    • Ladan Othman

      Now you undermined your own observation. professionally speaking, the Premium guys are very professional although they are overly critical of Jonathan, which is okay considering the enormous influence and power of the federal government over our lives. I see balance, I see accuracy in their reports and I see evidence of fairness. What else do you want. As a teacher of journalism that is all you can give to a story.

  • Agber

    Maku and Abati have been the biggest disappointment I, as a person, have had in this country of recent from people. Before they changed ship from the 4th to 1st class, I had so much respect for their views on national issues! Now they look at national issues with different eyes!! God Help US.

  • TRUTH MASTER

    When the government of the day – especially one that has achieved only modestly – vilifies a news medium, it is a badge of honour. So I congratulate Premium Times. Keep up the good work, guys!

    As for the Hon Minister of Information Maku, he is only acting in the true tradition of his predecessors, dating back to Akinyele, Chukwumerije, Ofonagoro, Gana et all. Does anyone remember these folks for anything noble today?

    One Information Minister that I think availed himself creditably in our recent is Chukwuemeka Chikelu, a suave, decent and obviously well-bred fellow. But he didn’t last. He could not have because he simply refused to be an attack dog (or is it lion?) for baba OBJ, like many of his predecessors!

  • kingston

    Premium times does one of the best investigative journalism in nigeria

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    President Jonathan minister of information Labaran Maku seems to be a dunce and lazy thinker like his boss president Jonathan by attacking Premium Times for constuctively criticising the defective anti-developmental and anti-people policies of president Jonathan already failed regime.
    If Premium Times is the type that blindly and naively supporting president Jonathan defective policies then Maku would be praising Premium Times.Premium Times serves as the credible source where latest development kept secret by president Jonathan regime would be investigated and reported first.Premium Times is one of the best reliable sources of informations in Nigeria.

  • deri

    the government was right–the entire article on the killings were sponsored by the rebles from the fulani north in the socalled new PDP-only a fool will buy into the rubbish-u guys published–the entire story was penned without a single comment from the land-lord–the owner of the said house-it was just one sided-event-sponsored by the legal adviser to boko haram–shehu sani–tell us the part of nigeria the said almajiris come from-Most of them hail from Chad and Niger Republic -and not Nigeria-and were recruited to come and work as terrorist cum okada riders–in abuja while they await final call to arms–the government was right in the action they took-against the backdrop of what happened in kenya

  • Mahmoud Lawal

    A clueless group of opportunists looking for a scapegoat to blame for their gross inadequacies in nation building.