An operative of the Department of State Security (DSS) attached to the Akwa Ibom State Government House Uyo yesterday attacked five correspondents of national newspapers.
The journalists are Iniobong Ekponta of Nigerian Tribune, Inemesit Akpansoh of the Guardian, Emeka Samuel of Nigerian Pilot and two others were assaulted at the gate of the Government House by the DSS operative.
They were at the Government House to keep a scheduled appointment with Mr. Ekerete Udoh, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Udom Emmanuel, but was manhandled by a DSS operative manning the gate.
A statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Correspondents’ Chapel Comrade Iniobong Ekponta and Anthony Bassey, explained that “the Executive and other leaders of the Chapel had visited the Government House to keep a scheduled appointment with Mr. Ekerete Udoh, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Udom Emmanuel, but ended being manhandled by a DSS operative manning the gate.
“When we inquired to know why we should not be allowed in, the overzealous officer threatened to open fire on the reporters if we refused to heed his instruction to reverse our car out of the Government House.
“The DSS man became more infuriated when he discovered we were Journalists, saying ‘I will shoot all of you right now if continue to stand here. Call anyone you want to call; I have worked with former governor Godswill Akpabio before in this State’. All entreaties by some policemen guarding the gate proved abortive, as the DSS official continue to harass the reporters, accusing them of “always coming to beg for money. ‘You said you are press; is press somebody name? Don’t we know it is money you always come to beg here?”, he fumed and shoved the journalists away.
When contacted, the governor’s CPS, who scheduled the meeting with the Correspondents, condemned the action, saying “just wait I will speak with him, only where I am now is far from the gate”.
It could be recalled that cases of harassment of Journalists by DSS officials have been rife especially during State Government events where media aides have taken decision to ban independent Journalists from covering activities of government.
For instance, former The Nation Correspondent, Kazeem Ibrahim, was hospitalized for weeks following heavy brutalisation he suffered from DSS officials while trying to cover government function at the Government House Banquet Hall.
Worried by the development, the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Mr. Clfford Thomas, condemned the action, describing it as “a threat to the freedom of information”.
“The CPS is the major source of information from the governor and the government. So it is very wrong for DSS official to act in a manner that is not consistent with the right and privileges the constitution accord Journalists in the course of doing their work. We condemned such action in a very strong terms and the DSS leader in Nigeria should call their men to order.
“Hounding of defenseless Journalists should be stopped forthwith, because not long ago, journalists were manhandled and their work tools destroyed by soldiers on ‘Operation Python Dance 11’ in Umuahia, Abia State”, the CLO chief said.
He called on the DSS to examine their ranks and engage their men in training and retraining exercises from time to time in order to re-orientate the psyche of their officers on military\civilian relationship, noting that similar allegation of torture and
high-handedness levelled against SARS, have forced the public to call for the ban of such Police structure.