Daily Independent Online.
Thursday, September 4, 2003.
Akwa Ibom legislators must make
restitution and apologise
In Akwa Ibom State, the lawmakers are drawing constitutional and public
ire by their resolution to expel the local correspondent of The Punch newspaper from the state. The
legislators say they resorted to the expulsion option because the reporter, Mr.
Haruna Acheneje, “failed to heed an earlier summons from the House to
appear before it over what it called ‘false and negative publishing of
the activities of the House by the newspaper.” But the newspaper’s
management, in defending it’s reporter’s refusal to honour the
summons, said it amounts to professional aberration to address complaints on
published stories to the writer rather than the editor.
Members of the Assembly thumped down this time-held, universally
accepted norm and validated their abnormal move by giving the reporter a 7-day
ultimatum to leave Akwa Ibom and practise his trade elsewhere. Their action,
despicable as it is, takes us back to the days of military rule, from which we
are supposed to have been weaned.They have not only demonstrated a disturbing streak of intolerance and
ignorance about the role of the media in democracy and governance, but also
they have breached the constitution they took an oath to protect.
The legislators have subverted the rule of law in that their decision is
arbitrary, as long as the due process of the law has not been followed.They have attempted to strip the
reporter of his constitutional right to live and work in any part of the
country. They simply do not possess the authority and powers to abrogate these
rights.The journalist is
identified in the constitution as the fourth complementary realm along with the
other three estates of government: executive, legislative, and judiciary.
Where one now seeks to abrogate the constitutional functions of the
other as the Akwa Ibom lawmakers have attempted to do, the nation should be
alerted to the ominous signs of grave consequences if prompt steps are not
taken to check them. We hold no brief for unprofessional media practice.But aggrieved members of the public or
government personnel offended by such conduct have the courts to appeal to for
redress.There are also such
layers of arbitration as the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the Guild of
Editors, the Newspapers Proprietors Association, the Broadcasting Commission
etc, to turn to.
Having revoked the order, the Assembly still needs to redeem
its image through a restitution and formal apology to the reporter and the
community of journalists.
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