The Presidency said yesterday that the clampdown on the print media by soldiers is in order. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told reporters in Abuja that the country’s security is at stake and “you cannot neglect security threats because we are living in trying times.”
But he claimed that President Goodluck Jonathan has no hand whatsoever in the continuing assault on the print because as he said, the soldiers’ action runs contrary to his principal’s political belief.
The administration, according to Okupe, will neither engage in, nor encourage any acts capable of constituting an assault on any media organisation or infringe on the freedom of the press.
He said that news reports suggesting that President Jonathan might have ordered that the media be suppressed and prevented from carrying out their constitutionally guaranteed responsibilities are untrue
“The military has explained that the checks followed intelligence reports on the possibility of some elements within the society using such vehicles to convey materials with grave security implications across the country”, he said.
He said that the clampdown is a temporary measure and appealed to the media houses and affected stakeholders to view the action in the light of the security challenges confronting the nation.
“If the security of the country is at stake, some segments may have to undergo some discomfort. This is what we have to face because our country is under siege”, Okupe stated.
Okupe, however, could not say when the ongoing military clampdown on the media would stop, saying that the exercise would be relaxed as soon as there is “significant reduction in the level of security alert.”
He stressed that assurances received from the military authorities are that personal liberties of media practitioners or those of their employees would not be unlawfully tampered with in the course of the exercise.
“We live in very trying times which may necessitate that some section or sectors of the society might experience some temporary discomfort in the overall interest of ensuring that the ideals of freedom, peace and security which we all hold dear will not be compromised by a few unscrupulous elements in our midst.
“The media, as the fourth estate of the realm is held in very high regards by the President and this has been practically demonstrated in various ways by this administration in the last three years.
“Recall that it was President Goodluck Jonathan who signed the very contentious Freedom of Information Bill into law immediately on assumption of office and has consistently espoused the principles of openness , accountability and liberalism in its relationship with the media at all times.
“While we sympathise with media houses which might have suffered one discomfort or the other as a result of these security checks, we assert, for the avoidance of doubt, that the President has not and will never give any order capable of hampering the smooth running of any media organisation or harass media practitioners in the lawful performance of their duties.
“This government will neither engage in nor encourage any acts that will constitute an assault on any media organisation or infringe on the freedom of the press”, Okupe added.