The Nigeria Union of Journalists, Warri Correspondents Chapel condemned in its entirety the assault on its chairman, Comrade Akpokona Omafuaire by men of the Nigeria Police Force attached to Oleh Police Division and officials of Isoko South Local Government Environment department led by the Supervising Councilor, Mr Kenneth Ogba, during today’s environmental sanitation exercise at the council area.
The Union stated that assaulting a journalist who is on essential duty like those who were deployed to cover and enforce law and order, after due self-introduction is unacceptable, claiming the action to be an attempt to gag the press.
In a statement it issued through its Secretary, Joe Ogbodu, the union said its members should not suffer any form of prejudice in the discharge of its duties.
The statement states in part; “Journalists, should not for any reason, suffer any prejudice in the course of their duties, as such a journalist who knows his right must refuse any directive or interference that is contrary to the mandate of his organisation.
“Therefore, any attempt by the policemen and other officials of the council to manhandle our chairman because they were deployed to enforce restrictions of movement is repugnant to journalistic practice.
“Journalists, just like the police and members of the Environmental department of the council, also have the right to free movement and it is only an ignorant policeman that would say that journalists are supposed to sit at home during Environmental Sanitation exercise, while claiming to have the license to stay on the street, to maintain law and order.
“The union also reiterates the fact that its members, as stakeholders does not need permits to cover the sanitation exercise.
“A journalist who is worth his declaration to exercise his journalistic duties, does not need a police permit or accreditation by the local government council to cover sanitation exercises or any explanation on his presence on the street, as events might unfold during the period that could be of public interest .
“Therefore, the assault on our chairman, seizure of his work tools, like camera, identification card and car key, under the guise of trying to enforce restriction of movement order is condemnable, unacceptable and an affront to journalistic practice.
“We would not condone such bare-faced act of impunity from anybody who claims to be doing his duty and trying to shut down journalists who should have free access to all sources of information and the right to investigate without impediment, anything that is in the public interest.
“The chapel hereby call on the commissioner of police Delta State Command to call his men to order to avoid creating bad blood between the police and journalists in the state as injury to one is injury to all.
“Our State Council Chairman, Comrade Michael Ikeogwu who felt embarrassed by this unwholesome event, has expressed displeasure over the development, and had warned that he would not condone any form of embarrassment meted to journalists in the state, who are legitimately doing their job.
“Any policeman that doesn’t know that journalists monitor environmental sanitation exercises or are allowed access, while such exercise are taking place, like others on essential duty should go back for further training.”