“The military will not deliberately and without cause, infringe on the freedom of the press.”
The federal government on Friday defended the military’s attack on some newspapers across the country.
Soldiers, acting on orders, had on Friday morning seized and destroyed thousands of copies of Leadership and The Nation Newspapers being distributed across the country. The Punch Newspapers was also affected in the attacks.
The military later released a statement justifying the attack and saying the onslaught was launched after security agencies received intelligence reports.
It said the intelligence reports indicated movement of materials with grave security implications across the country, using the channels of newsprint-related consignment.
While several Nigerians have condemned the onslaught as an attack on press freedom, the Nigerian government has defended the action.
The government’s position was stated by Mike Omeri, the Coordinator of the National Information Centre, at a press briefing in Abuja.
“The military will not deliberately and without cause, infringe on the freedom of the press,” Mr. Omeri, who is also the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, said.
According to him, “confiscation of newspapers has nothing to do with content or operation of the media organisations or their personnel”, since “the government and the military appreciate and, indeed, respects the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the on-going counter-insurgency operations and the overall advancement of the country’s democratic credentials”.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors had earlier condemned the assault, saying it was a throwback to the days of military repression, “which we thought we had long put behind us as a country.”
“If the siege arose out of the need to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it, Nigeria editors roundly and soundly reject such negative profiling”, the statement by the Guild’s president, Femi Adesina, said.
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