Soldiers on Thursday invaded the Maiduguri offices of the Daily Trust after a story published by the paper on Wednesday alleged that Nigerian soldiers had refused orders to fight Boko Haram militants with their bare hands. Two managers of the paper, Jamilu Aliyu and Aminu Ado were detained for one hour at the army headquarters in Maiduguri.
The military later released a statement that said the Daily Trust should retract the story and, in the future, contact the military for any story on the army or national security or face sanctions. However, Nigerian Army spokesperson has since denied that any sanction was being planned against the newspaper.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) calls on the Nigerian military to regard cordial relation with the press as crucial in the war against insurgents. It is high time the Nigerian military realized that any war at all has three fronts: the battle field per se, public opinion at home and the opinion of the international community. It is only in the first front that weapons and soldiers feature. The rest is in the hands of the press.
Soldiers may win battles, it is the press that wins the war for them or vice versa. Of course the attitude of the press is largely informed by the military’s professional or unprofessional prosecution of the war.
The storming of Daily Trust office in Maiduguri falls in the category of the unprofessional. It was also unjust because Daily Trust was not the primary source of the report as it was first broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). MURIC strongly condemns this invasion. It is an undeniable symptom of dictatorship of the left. It was barbaric, unethical and in bad taste.
For improved relations between the press and the military, we suggest that future operations against insurgents should be conducted with the embedding of journalists. This will conform with international best practices. It is well known that journalists are often embedded in military convoys during advances on enemy targets in civilized countries and we see no reason why the Nigerian military cannot do it.
The fact that the two Daily Trust reporters who were arrested by the army were told to stop criticizing the military speaks volumes. The Nigerian military should realize that Gestapo tactics have become unpopular, archaic and myopic.
Those who muzzle the press have more than something to hide. It is sad that other democratic institutions remain quiet when these atrocities are committed. The National Assembly should wake up from its slumber because democracy cannot thrive where the press is gagged.
MURIC calls on the Nigerian military to respect Allah-given and fundamental rights of the press. Only thus can the freedom of the press be guaranteed. As a civilian institution and the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the press must be recognized by the military as a partner and not as an enemy or a rival.
The Nigerian press has assisted in enabling government to know about problems facing the military particularly in the area of needs. It was after the Nigerian press reported the problem of poor funding and crude weaponry that the Federal Government rose to the occasion. The same reports also enabled the international community to know the problems facing the Nigerian Army.
Consequently, Western powers have donated several modern equipments like bomb-detecting robots from the United States and jet bombers from Britain. This reveals that the Nigerian Army has started benefitting from the labour of the Nigerian press. How then can one good turn deserve invasion and arrest?
MURIC gives kudos to the two brave journalists from the Daily Trust. We urge them to regard the experience as part of the hazards of their noble profession. We charge the Nigerian press in general to remain as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.
We call on the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) to file a complaint on the constant intimidation of its members before the presidency and the National Assembly. NUJ must be ready to sue the military for these constant infringements if government fails to take any action on their complaint.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
E-mail: [email protected]
Yahoo Group: groups.yahoo.com/group/