The U.S. Consular General stated this in Lagos.
Apparently worried by the seemingly increasing attack on the press by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the United States has told the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure press freedom.
The U.S. made its position at a public forum through its Consular General in Nigeria, Jeffery Hawkins.
Mr. Hawkins stated this on Wednesday in Lagos, at a programme to celebrate Joe Okei-Odumakin, who was recently honoured with the International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. government for her steadfast struggle for entrenchment of democracy and the respect for human rights.
“The freedom of the press is crucial. Nigerian vibrant media should be allowed to operate freely,” the Consular General said.
Mr. Hawkin’s statement comes at a time the Nigerian government is intensifying its strong-arm approach at silencing media organisations across the country.
Early this month four journalists from the Leadership Newspapers were detained for refusing to name the source of a story which alleges that the Mr. Jonathan is planning to truncate the merger of opposition political parties in the country.
The journalists – Chinyere Fred-Adebulugbe, Chuks Ohuegbe, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe – were summoned to the police headquarters in Abuja and then detained for refusing to divulge the source of the document from which the story was written.
Two of the journalists and the newspaper have since been charged to court after condemnations locally and internationally at the government’s tactics.
“President Jonathan and his handlers need to tell Nigerians and the civilized world why they have suddenly moved from describing the document as “fiction,” to a do-or-die obsession with knowing the source; they need to tell Nigerians most of who now live in mortal fear of their personal safety and security, if clamping down on the press has now become a priority sport,” said Azubike Ishiekwene, managing director of Leadership Group of Newspapers.
Also, last December, officials of the Directorate of Security Service (DSS), in ten cars stormed the houses, military style, of journalists of Hausa speaking newspaper, Al Mizan, in Kaduna. They rough handled the journalists and their family members. The journalists were arrested after a critical piece about the human rights violations of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Potiskum, Yobe State. They were subsequently taken to an unknown detention centre. The reporters were released without charge after over a week in detention.
Keeping faith with the hostile disposition of the Mr. Jonathan’s administration, the broadcast media watchdog, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), has unleashed its venom on media organisations with dissenting opinions.
In February, the NBC suspended the operation licence of Wazobia FM, Kano and charged two journalists, working for the radio station for allegedly inciting the killing of nine vaccinators by the violent Islamist sect, Boko Haram.
International media advocacy group, the Committee to protect Journalist (CPJ), described the NBC as “arbitrary and susceptible to discriminatory application,” and said its restrictions on content are “excessive and contrary to international standards.”
Earlier in April, the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, banned a documentary, fueling poverty, claiming its contents “are highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security.”
The documentary later won the best documentary at the AMAA awards and also had its views on YouTube more than triple.
Apart from these recent cases, journalists are routinely beaten and brutalised by security operatives, especially those attached to politicians, for doing their jobs.