UK, Others Describe Military invasion of Daily Trust, Journalists Arrest as Rash

The United Kingdom, the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and other civil society organisations have condemned the invasion of the national headquarters of Media Trust Limited, the publishers of the Daily Trust titles in Jabi, Abuja and its outstation office in Maiduguri on Sunday night.

Armed soldiers had on Sunday invaded the premises of the media outfit in Abuja, and Maiduguri and carted away computers, laptops and arrested the Regional Editor, Uthman Abubakar, and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab.

The United Kingdom described the action as rash, noting that a free press which is able to challenge and comment on the actions of the nation was an essential cornerstone and hallmark of democracy across the globe, insisting that “this freedom is an inviolable and absolute right.”

The UK Department for International Development in Nigeria in a statement in Abuja on Monday by its Communications Officer, David Smith, advised the military to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders on how best to work together to deliver for the people of Nigeria.

The DFID stated, “Whilst we welcome the swift and decisive action from the Federal Government in resolving this incident, the existence of the raid alone remains a concerning development in Nigeria.

“The United Kingdom believes that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are fundamental democratic principles, and their right is absolute and inviolable.

“A free press is the hallmark of a civilised and democratic nation, and efforts to subvert or silence such organisations are the colours of tyranny and authoritarianism.

“Rather than resorting to rash tactics of raids and arrests, a strong foundation of dialogue and trust will resolve issues before they create friction.”

The United Kingdom said it would continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly as the 2019 presidential election drew closer.

Also, the Head of the UK Department for International Development in Nigeria, Ms Debbie Palmer, said, “This is a concerning development for Nigeria, and I am disappointed that such rash action was taken by the authorities.”

Also, the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, in a statement on Monday by its Executive Secretary, Feyi Smith, said it received the news of the invasion with shock.

Decrying the invasion NPAN said, “The weekend siege to the Daily Trust newspaper premises was clearly unconstitutional, without due process and   an act of self-help.”

In the same vein, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, rebuked the military in a statement jointly signed by its President, Funke Egbemode, and Social and Publicity Secretary, Ken Ugbechie.

The NGE said, “The crude invasion, intimidation and arrest of journalists discharging their constitutional duties in the Maiduguri zonal office of the newspaper by heavily armed soldiers is not the type of story befitting the military in a democracy.”

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