The Media Foundation for West Africa has learnt with satisfaction that the spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Sani Usman, has paid a visit to the head office of Premium Times newspaper in Abuja to interact with editors of the newspaper in a bid to ease tension between the Army and the media organisation.
The visit on February 27, 2017 comes two months after the police raided the offices of the Premium Times newspaper and arrested the publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi and a reporter, Evelyn Okakwu. The arrests followed the newspaper’s rejection of the Army’s demand for a retraction of a story on its operations and on the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.
Blaming “communication gaps” for the recent misunderstanding between the Army and the newspaper, Mr. Usman said his visit was intended to turn a new leaf in the relationship and communication management between the newspaper and the military authorities.
“Premium Times is a credible medium and whatever you publish will be taken as gospel truth by many,” Mr. Usman said. The army officer then pleaded with the editors to exercise more discretion when reporting sensitive operational challenges of the army.
In response, Musikilu Mojeed, the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times newspaper, said his organisation greatly appreciates the efforts of the Nigerian Army in fighting all threats to the peace and stability of Nigeria amidst unprecedented challenges. He maintained however, that the newspaper remains committed to its responsibility of holding officials accountable, and asked for mutual understanding.
“Once we understand each other’s constitutional roles, and responsibilities to society, there will be little or no conflict,” Mr. Mojeed said.
“Engagement and access are highly essential to the work we both do, but more importantly to the development and deepening of our democracy which the two institutions have a constitutional mandate to promote,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of the newspaper.
The MFWA welcomes this healthy development and encourages such interactions between the media and security agencies in Nigeria and the sub-region in general. It is reassuring that the military has responded positively to our call and that of our national partner in Nigeria, International Press Centre for dialogue between the media the security agencies in Nigeria to build goodwill between the two sides.