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+SUPPRESS INSURGENTS NOT JOURNALISTS- HURIWA TELLS SOLDIERS:

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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A civil society organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has upbraided the hierarchy of the Nigerian Armed Forces for going after ordinary media workers simply doing their legitimate and constitutionally guaranteed duty of informing, entertaining and educating readers across the country and the World as a whole especially with regard to the coverage of the ongoing internecine violent insurgency by armed Islamic rebels in the North East of Nigeria.

Reacting to the weekend invasion by the Nigerian Army of the Maiduguri, Borno state North East zonal office of the Daily Trust media company and the quizzing of some of the top managers of the media house about the recent coverage the newspaper has given to the activities of both the armed insurgents and the armed military battling to defeat the bloody insurgency that has led to the gruesome murder of over twelve thousand innocent Nigerians by the armed Islamists, the Rights group said the soldiers should double up their combat strategies to defeat the enemies of the nation and should avoid chasing shadows by seeking to crush the media of mass communication for keeping Nigerians and international audience abreast with facts on the ground in the frontline of the bloody insurgency.

In a media statement issued and jointly signed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Ms. Zainab Yusuf, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria [HURIWA] condemned as primitive and undemocratic the actions of the Nigerian Army in its consistent affront to the Rule of law and the incessant breach of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of media workers just as it has asked the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces Dr. Good luck Ebele Jonathan to use his good authorities to call the seemingly overzealous soldiers to order.

HURIWA stated thus; " We view this consistent application of brute force by the operatives and officers of the Nigerian armed forces targeted against media workers in Nigeria for simply exercising their constitutional right under chapter four and section 22 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 [as amended] as the greatest threat to the sustenance of civil democracy and the rule of law. As members of the Armed Forces created by statutes and the provisions of the constitution of Nigeria, the operatives and officers are not above the law of the land and therefore can not resort to violent self help measures or psychological and physical torture to seek to stop the circulation of independent information and opinion allowed under the laws of the land. We urge the hierarchies of the armed forces to comply with extant provisions of the law and abide by the rules of engagement in dealing with the civil populace. These incessant brutality and unwarranted attacks against the media of mass communication by soldiers is illegal and unconstitutional and indeed demeans the rating of Nigeria as a democracy in the comity of nations particularly when Nigeria is working to become a respected member of the United Nations. As a strategic signatory to various international and continental human rights instruments and international humanitarian laws, Nigeria is under constitutional obligation to allow journalists to carry out their legitimate duties without let, hindrance or molestation or indeed threats of arbitrary arrest and detention by soldiers."

HURIWA tasked both the Nigerian Media and the military authorities in Nigeria to work for peace and tranquility in Nigeria even as the Rights group has challenged the military authorities to always give unfettered access to credible media workers so the military's side of every story is reflected. The group alleged that most times information are concealed by the military authority and by this way the members of the civil society are denied access to quality information regarding the ongoing effort of the current administration to sufficiently confront the armed Islamic insurgents threatening the territorial integrity of Nigerians.

HURIWA asked the soldiers to go after insurgents as gallant fighters to stop them from overrunning towns and villages in the North East and should not create unnecessary distraction by waging meaningless war of attrition against media workers. "The recent incursions into towns and villages by armed Islamic rebels in the North East while soldiers stand by and do nothing is unconstitutional because the Armed Forces are set up to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria as gallant fighters. HURIWA challenged the authorities of the Nigerian military to use the force of law to compel combatants to confront and defeat these terrorists before they overrun more territories inside Nigeria.