ARMY BARS MEDIA HOUSES FROM COVERING ITS ACTIVITIES
Army bars media houses from covering its activities
From MOLLY KILETE, Abuja
Thursday, March 04 , 2010
The Directorate of Army Public Relations (DAPR) has placed a ban on some specific media houses which it described as 'being on the opposition' from covering activities of the service at the Army Head Quarters in Abuja .
Sources at the directorate headquarters gave the names of some of the affected media houses as: The Sun, Guardian, Punch, Champion, Nation, Daily Trust, Leadership, Daily Independent, New Nigerian, Peoples Daily, Compass and Next.
Some television stations are also affected by the new policy of the directorate. Similarly, journalists who are accreditted to cover the defence beat have been banned from having access to the directorate headquarters to seek clarifications on burning issues, except they are on appointment.
Calls and text messages sent to phone numbers of officers of the directorate who are supposed to be in positions to speak on behalf of the Nigerian Army are never answered or responded to, as journalists covering the beat are kept in the dark. Interestingly, the directorate has not failed in sending its rejoinders and press releases in reaction to negative reports to the e-mail addresses of same media houses it has banned from covering its activities.
Sources at the Army headquarters in Abuja told Daily Sun that the ban on the specific media houses started sometime last year after the directorate began to get uncomfortable with reports of some newspapers on issues affecting the army and decided to cut them off.
The Director in charge of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade, was said to have handed over the names of the media houses delisted to soldiers at the reception of Army headquarters to ensure strict compliance.
Daily Sun gathered that this is the first time in the history of the directorate that accredited journalists were being banned from covering activities at the Army headquarters. The development, Daily Sun further gathered, had attracted criticisms from army personnel, as well as those in the Navy and Air Force, who described the decision as strange in a democracy.
To make it look as if it is the decision of the army authorities to ban some of the media houses from covering army activities, the directorate sent out accreditation forms to media houses to indicate the names of those they have nominated to cover defence and army. The form, which had February 24, as deadline for submission, demanded full details of such a nominated reporter, some of which include the date of birth, marital status, among others which are considered very personal by journalists covering the beat. Several calls made to the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade to get his own side of the story by this reporter were not answered.