MRA, IPC Call on FG to Ensure Release of Kidnapped Radio Presenter

MRA, IPC Call on FG to Ensure Release of Kidnapped Radio Presenter

…Express Worry on Increasing Attacks on Journalists …Implore Government to Guarantee Safety of Media Workers …Want Culprits Apprehended, Brought to Justice Two frontline media advocacy groups, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC), have condemned Monday’s abduction of Ms Chinenye Iwuoha, a presenter with the Pacesetter FM station of the Federal Radio

…Express Worry on Increasing Attacks on Journalists

…Implore Government to Guarantee Safety of Media Workers

…Want Culprits Apprehended, Brought to Justice

Two frontline media advocacy groups, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC), have condemned Monday’s abduction of Ms Chinenye Iwuoha, a presenter with the Pacesetter FM station of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Umuahia, Abia State, by gunmen and called on the Federal Government and its law enforcement agencies to take urgent action to ensure the safety of the journalist and secure her release.

Ms. Iwuoha was reportedly kidnapped by gunmen near the popular Amakanma Estate in the Umuahia South Local Government Area of the state at about 7pm on May 4 on her way home from work.  She was reported to have been travelling in a vehicle with the station’s general manager and the other employees when they were attacked by the gunmen who then abducted Ms Iwuoha. The gunmen are reported to have later made a ransom demand to the station for the payment of N20 million for the release of the presenter.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Director of Programmes, Mr Ayode Longe, reminded the Federal Government that although it had a duty to ensure the security of all citizens, where media practitioners are concerned, it has a heightened responsibility to protect them as they are performing an essential function in the interest of the society as mandated by the Constitution.

Besides, Mr. Longe said, the Government also has an obligation under international instruments which it has voluntary acceded to, to provide a safe and conducive environment for journalists and other media workers to carry out their work as well as to ensure their safety.

He noted that there has been a recent upsurge in attacks against journalists and other media workers in Nigeria by public office holders, law enforcement and security agents as well as non-state actors, saying that any failure on the part of the Government to act decisively in the case of Ms Iwuoha would likely embolden other groups and individuals who would thereby be tempted to think that they can get away with such attacks.

Mr Longe asked the Government to ensure that perpetrators of the attack on Ms Iwouha are apprehended and brought to justice in order to send a strong message to criminal elements in the society as well as other actors who seek to harm journalists as a means of silencing them that there will be no impunity for such acts.

Also deploring the kidnap of the female Journalist, in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade, IPC noted that the pattern of using journalists as bargaining chips by kidnappers is unacceptable

“The rising dangers faced by Journalists, is leading to greater levels of concern and immediate action needs to be taken to guarantee their safety and hold accountable those who endanger them” he said.

Arogundade called on the state’s commissioner of Police to leave no stone unturned to secure the release of the journalist and ensure that the culprits are brought to book.

This kidnap of the female Journalist is coming on heel of the April 14th arrest of Mr. Chijioke Agwu, a reporter with the Daily Sun newspaper, on the instructions of Ebonyi State Governor, Mr David Umahi and the April 22 state-wide radio and television broadcast by the Governor in which he banned for life Mr. Agwu and Mr. Peter Okutu, a correspondent of the Vanguard newspaper, from entering the State Government House or any other government facility and from covering any government or official functions in the state.

This led the MRA and IPC to jointly petition the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), asking it to sanction Mr Umahi for allegedly misconducting himself, breaching his oath of office and the Code of Conduct for Public Officers following his attacks on Journalists in the State.

In a complaint addressed to the Chairman of the Bureau pursuant to Paragraph 3(e) of Part One to the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the organizations contended that “Mr. Umahi is unfit to continue to hold the office of Governor and requested the Bureau to investigate the matter and invoke the provisions of Paragraph 18(2)(a) and (b) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the Constitution to secure his removal from office and disqualification from holding any public office in Nigeria for the next 10 years.”

The organizations attached an audio recording of the Governor’s broadcast to the petition, saying it contained inciting statements against the two journalists whom he banned, thereby putting their lives at risk, as well as threats to other journalists in the state whom he said would face dire consequences should they publish any negative stories about his Government.

Governor Umahi has since revoked the directive saying that he was misquoted and that his government and the media were partners in development.  He also disowned the audio and video recordings in the social media claiming he allegedly banned two newsmen for life for publishing false reports.

The Governor in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Francis Nwaze, described the audio and video recordings as “doctored’’ and aimed at misleading the public.

Nwaze said the two newsmen’s reports raised alarm and caused panic in the midst of the fight against COVID-19.

“There is no case of confirmed death caused by Lassa fever recently in Ebonyi, and neither was there any killings by the Nigerian military last weekend in the state,” he said

“The reports were ill-conceived and have no truth in them as both newsmen were never embarrassed, intimidated or harassed to the knowledge of the Governor at any government event.

“The Governor never ordered such ban and he called the attention of the NUJ leadership in the state on April 15 and April 22, advising it to ensure that its members always verified their reports in the interest of the state and nation,’’ he said.

Nwaze, in the statement, called on the NUJ and the public to discountenance the false reports, as well as audio and video recordings as they were figments of imagination of the bearers.

“It is a delicate attempt to smear the hard-earned reputation and good relationship of the Governor with the media,” the statement reads.

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