'Premium Times' journalists' arrest is purely a private affair," minister says

press freedom
FILE: Ima Niboro (left), managing director of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, welcoming the minister of information, Lai Mohammed at the NAN Headquarters in Abuja on Friday, December 12, 2015 | NAN

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, has said that the federal government will not do anything to stifle press freedom, because it is keenly aware that a free press is vital to the success of any democracy.

In an e-mailed statement to The Trent on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, signed by Segun Adeyemi, a media aide to the minister, Lai Mohammed said the federal government has nothing to do with the recent arrest of Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of the online newspaper Premium Times, and a reporter working for the paper, Ms. Evelyn Okakwu.

He said the whole issue of the journalists’ arrest is purely a private affair involving a citizen and a privately-owned newspaper, and wondered how that could now be construed as an attempt by the government to intimidate the press.

“We have said it before and we want to restate it: The Federal Government has no immediate or long-term plan to stifle press freedom. Even the Social Media, with its warts and all, will neither be regulated nor have its operations tampered with,” Mr. Mohammed assured Nigerians.

On Monday, the Nigerian Army issued a statement to clarify the conflict between the institution and Premium Times, an online newspaper.

The statement signed by Brigadier General Sani Usman, the army’s spokesperson, and e-mailed to The Trent by e-mail on Monday, January 23, 2017 says that the Nigerian Army has not instituted legal action against the newspaper.

The army also defended the legal action taken by its boss, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai saying that he is “a law-abiding citizen” who took “appropriate legal steps of seeking redress” for libelous publications against him by the news platform.

The statement also hinted that the military establishment have grievances against the newspaper, which comes as a surprise to many because the media outlet is pro-Buhari and the ruling APC party.

“The case between the Nigerian Army and the Premium Times of jeopardizing military operations, fraudulent obtaining and disclosure of military information that led to deaths and loss of equipment, is still in the offing,” General Usman wrote.


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