PREMIUM TIMES has reported that it has come under the attack of the federal government for its reportage of security issues in the country “in what appears to be a creeping onslaught on independent national voices”.
The online newspaper accused the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, of singling it and another online paper, SaharaReporters, out for particular attack while expressing government’s “utmost displeasure” with the social media community in the country.
It said the Minister accused them of “publishing reports capable of undermining military strategy against extremists, and stir mutiny within the military,” without mentioning any particular reference.
The paper said: “Maku’s attack came, however, in the intersection of two compelling policy challenges facing the administration: a desperate urge to regulate the internet and the social media landscape, on the one hand, and a way to manage a string of operational slip ups in the ongoing anti-terror campaign, the latest which was the extra-judicial murder of about seven young men in the Apo neighbourhood in Abuja”.
Maku spoke on the theme: “Social Media and Public Information Management” at the 44th National Council on Information in Osogbo, Osun state.
But in a swift reaction, PREMIUM TIMES has refuted Maku’s claims, describing the administration’s action as a scheme to blackmail and intimidate independent media voices from performing the important role of holding government and its officials accountable.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Managing Editor, Musikilu Mojeed, spoke of “the professional integrity, the deep sense of accuracy, balance, and fairness that define the news ethics” of the newspaper, but regretted that the paper “could not apologise if its uncompromising independence created discomfort for officials in the corridors of power”.
“The commitment to a democratic, accountable and transparent nation, that assumes its place of pride in the comity of nations is our well advertised position, and we cannot be persuaded that the sacrifices we make for the nation are inferior to the daily claims made by public officials,” Mojeed said.
He added: “When we expose government’s neglect of Nigerian troops on mission, as well as the violations by security forces confronting the brutal insurgency of Boko Haram, we do not come with a sense of diminished national or patriotic spirit. We speak for the higher ideals that define the aspirations of the best among our compatriots.”
The paper urged the minister to restrain in using his position of power and privilege to abridge and abuse the honoured right to freedom of expression of citizens, and to remember that “the history of our land and of many nations of the globe have proved that governments work best only when they see the media as partners in the progress of building a virile nation and stable democracy.”
PREMIUM TIMES also assured its readers that it will always exhibit a sense professionalism and discretion in its reporting, and would continue to do so while upholding the people’s right to know.
“We see ourselves as a public trust which owes its readers and the Nigerian people the honoured promise of truth, accountability, and commitment to true democracy. We cannot pretend to appreciate intimidation and blackmail in this process,” the paper stated.