The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has faulted the purported ban of some media houses and journalists from covering the activities of Ebonyi State Government by Governor Dave Umahi.
The NBA stated that, not only did the governor lack the power to hinder the operations of the media in a democracy, but the media is also constitutionally empowered to keep governments and their officials in check.
It noted that the action credited to Umahi was a sad reminder of the dark days of military rule in the country.
The association said the only option for the governor, where he is uncomfortable with media report, is to approach the court.
The NBA’s position is contained in a statement in Abuja on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun.
The statement reads: “The Nigerian Bar Association views the reported threat ascribed to the Governor of Ebonyi State allegedly banning two journalists for life as unfortunate and a sad reminder of the rule by force under the military regime.
“The Nigerian Press constitutes the fourth realm in the democracy estate and plays a very important function in ensuring the growth of our democracy.
“The right to Freedom of expression and the right to impart and disseminate information are constitutionally guaranteed rights under the Nigerian 1999 Constitution and same cannot be taken away by Executive fiat.
“The law against libel is available for anyone seeking remedies against false publications.
“Our democracy requires an unfettered and courageous press to grow. It is anti-people to gag the press.
“Government is expected to partner with the media, civil society organizations and professional organisations like the NBA to help in the delivery of the dividends of democracy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up alot of challenges for the government and citizens of Nigeria.
“However, in addressing same and carrying out the functions of governance, government officials should act within the confines of the law.”