The Caretaker Committee of the Nigeria Union of Journalists Imo State Council (NUJ), the professional body and trade union of working journalists has cried out and condemned the recent arrest and detention of newspaper vendors in the state for undisclosed reasons,stating that this is akin to form denying the Press Freedom and access to information as enshrined in a section of the country’s constitution which guarantees the vendor the right to engage in meaningful means of livelihood.
In a press statement issued in Owerri the state chapter on Monday May 10, endorsed by the Caretaker Chairman of the Union, Comrade Precious Nwadike and the Secretary Comrade Austin Okoro and made available to the media, the union demanded that those arrested be released or charged to court of law for whatever offences they were presumed to have committed.
The union described the alleged arrest of the vendors as a form of gagging the press.
The statement read in part, “it has come to our notice that security operatives early this morning stormed Rotibi Street, Owerri where vendors usually assemble to receive and distribute newspapers, and arrested scores of vendors and distributors.
Before now, we had also learnt that the New Telegraph Newspaper Sales Representative was arrested at Banana Junction, Orlu by security operatives. Till date, all efforts made to locate him have proved abortive as sources at relevant security agencies in the state have denied knowledge of such arrest.
This latest onslaught on the pen profession and it’s ancillary arms seem to be a very loud confirmation of the much talked about fast drift of the nation away from democracy to tyranny, chaos and oppression”.
We consider this development highly worrisome and call on the security agents to be more circumspect in their dealings with the people.
We suppose we are still under a democratic dispensation and our profession is protected by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution and other extant laws of the land. The media remains a bastion of democracy and should for no reason be gagged.
We therefore call on the security agents to release the vendors or come up with explanation of the offence they committed beyond selling newspapers at their various newspaper stands.
Where any serious offence(s) known to the laws of Nigeria is/are established against them, we urge that they be charged to court for open trial than holding them beyond the time stipulated by the law.
We believe Nigeria’s constitution guarantees them to engage in their legitmate means of livelihood for which they are being held. Anything contrary to this demands explanation.
Now is time to work towards peace on all fronts than doing things that fuel anarchy”.