By: Valentine Adese,
Although the Media has obligations vested on it in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), its important roles in the affairs of the country is yet to be given its desired place, especially, by the Nigerian security architecture.
The History of Nigeria has on record, most of the significant roles played by the Media and its practitioners, before, during and after the country’s Independence in 1960 and before the establishment of the Nigerian Army, Air force, Mobile Police and several others that are now benefiting from the successes gained by the involvement of the Media and its practitioners in the affairs of the nation.
In all, the Media and its practitioners have been relegated to the background since the military rule that was introduced after the 1966 coup.
The constitutional provision in section 22 of the 1999 Constitution that empowers, oblige and that guarantees the Media and its practitioners to uphold the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”, as contained in Chapter II and also uphold the responsibility and accountability of government to the people have been jettisoned in the last 58 years.
The situation on ground now is that the Media and its practitioners have been so reduced to become watchers, listeners and conveyors of government’s stand on issues and information as generated by those in authorities.
The Media and its practitioners, like in Zamfara, Borno, Benue and Plateau states to a large extent are today practicing their profession under the “Theory of Limitations”, as they carry out what ought to be a constitutional responsibility for the masses.
In Borno state, there is an outright ban on the Media and its practitioners from reporting what is not from the authorities. The ban introduces fake news and throws it at the door step of practitioners, who as professionals are suppose to define what news is and its relevance to the masses.
In Plateau state, despite the fact that there is no express ban on the media and its practitioners from reporting security operations in the state like it is in Borno, the practitioners only doggedly report these events as they take place or occur in the state as good citizens would do.
The Special Task Force (STF) (Operation Save Haven), like its counterpart operating in Borno and Benue states, have continued to use the Media and its practitioners as windows for disseminating information and not collaborators, as agents that bring peace to the states.
Those in authority in the state have constantly engaged the state owned media structures and media apparatus to replace the competitive private media houses and practitioners, who want to break news to the eager and news hungry masses within the period under review.
As of now, the STF in Plateau state, despite the several years it was established to maintain peace in the state has not been able to establish a “Situation-room” to accommodate the Media, its practitioners and the STF media staffers.
The STF has not yet embed practitioners in its operations to enable the good citizens of Plateau state get independent reports of the situations on ground and the level of gains so far achieved with respect to the efforts that has been put in by the STF for same purpose, despite the partnership and funds also allegedly provided by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) administration led by Governor Simon Lalong in the state.
Records have it that the STF have rather engaged the Media and its practitioners for reactionary purposes and in that respect, carry selected Media practitioners at selected times to areas the practitioners may have not been willing independently to cover for news.
The “Response-time” for queries from Journalists, apart from been slow, get responded to if the information officer of the STF and other security out fits operating in the state, have been doing business with the practitioners before. Otherwise, the calls from such Media house or practitioners, remain unanswered or kept pending.
To also reduce the force attached to the queries of the Media and its practitioners to elicit answers from the security outfits operating in the state, Press Briefings are regularly done at security establishments’ barracks with a simply aim of gagging the vibrancy of the Media practitioners reasoning index.
To mitigate this, many have praised the wisdom and initiative of Mr. Yusuf I. Aminu, the incumbent State Chairman of the Correspondents chapel, for creating a Whatsup Platform, tagged “Security Alert”, to enable the Media and its practitioners establish close contact for interactions and share information concerning the state, especially as it relates to security in Plateau State.
While this effort has been commended by a lot of media practitioners in the state, the new fear is that the media officers of the Plateau State Government and the security out fits operating in the state that are added to the membership of the Platform, hardly comments on the issues and queries been raised, making lots of contributors to the platform to begin to apply caution.
READ ALSO, THE REACTION OF THE NUJ PLATEAU STATE COUNCIL ON THE ON-GOING MILITARY SEARCH IN DU VILLAGE IN JOS SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF PLATEAU STATE BELOW:
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State Council is concerned about the way and manner the Nigeria Army is going about its search for missing Maj. Gen. Idris Alkali (rtd).
The arbitrary harassment, intimidation and arrest of members of the public as part of their search is a thing of worry to the NUJ.
We expect the Army to conduct its intelligence and go after those they suspect and not arrest anybody in sight.
We recall that at the commencement of the evacuation of water from Dura Du pond in Jos South, the Army told the public that they have credible intelligence that the missing general’s car was in the pond and true to their word, the car was retrieved from the pond.
We expect them to use the same intelligence they used to locate the car to go after the suspects as they continue the search for Gen. Alkali or his body.
We are perturb because innocent people are not spared by the crude method they have employed thereby instilling fear and overheating the polity.
The Army on Saturday in a statement, assured the public that they will exhibit high level professionalism according to international standard in the search but what is on display contradicts the assurances.
The same Saturday, a member of our Union, a reporter of the Punch Newspaper was arrested alongside other persons by the army and was detained for 28 hours in Rukuba Barracks as part of the search.
We wish to state unequivocally that while journalists support the search for the missing senior officer, indeed the Nigeria Union Of Journalists, Plateau State Council will not hesitate in withdrawing its members from covering their activities if the intimidation and harassment continues.
Paul Jatau. Peter Amine