Armed soldiers yesterday unleashed their might on newspapers, disrupting their distribution, confiscating the newspapers and consequently stopping their sales in many parts of the country, saying their action was for security reasons.
Reports have earlier quoted the military as saying the media should stop coverage of attacks by Islamist sect Boko Haram, as part of their strategy to end insurgency in the country, although the army denied that was the purpose of the newspapers confiscation.
The distribution vans conveying newspapers to various parts of the country were so delayed at military check-points that distribution of the papers failed. In some cases, the vehicles were detained till evening time, Vanguard reports.
In a statement signed by its Editor-in-Chief and General Manager, Gbenga Adefaye, Vanguard deplored “the interference with its business and professional duties early this morning (yesterday) by armed soldiers who prevented the legitimate sale and dissemination of information.
“We think it was an unconstitutional and illegal act, not expected in a civil and democratic regime. We will like to advise all aggrieved persons to abide by democratic tenets and seek redress in court for any perceived infraction of the law.”
The Nation newspaper also reacted in a statement signed by its Managing Editor, Lekan Otusobunrin, saying that “as early as 3:10 am on Friday, June 5, (yesterday) drivers of our distribution vans began filing in reports of arrest and seizures of our vehicles and consignment of newspapers for the day by soldiers across the country.
“The soldiers who stormed our offices arrested the drivers after searching the vehicles and consignment. Although, nothing incriminating was found in any of the vans searched, our vehicles and drivers were detained.
“It is necessary to point out that the seizure of Friday’s edition of The Nation and Sporting Life has caused the company huge losses. The soldiers prevented us from carrying out our legitimate business. We call on the military authority to release unconditionally all our vehicles and newspaper parcels still in their custody.”
The Leadership newspaper was also notably affected across the country.
Meanwhile, the defence headquarters had in a statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, DDI, Major General Chris Olukolade gave reasons for confiscating the newspapers: “This followed intelligence report indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint related consignments.”
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that the exercise has nothing to do with the content or operation of the media organisations or their personnel as is being wrongly imputed by a section of the press.
“The military appreciates and indeed respects the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the ongoing counter-insurgency operation and the overall advancement of our country’s democratic credentials. As such, the military will not deliberately and without cause, infringe on the freedom of the press.
“The general public and the affected media organisations in particular are assured that the exercise was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive,” the military statement said.