A pressure group called Ebonyi Transparency and Accountability Network (E-TAN) says it is worried about recent moves by Ebonyi government to stifle media activities in the state.
A statement on Saturday in Enugu by President of the group, Mr Ikechukwu Okogwu, said that the media is an indispensable part of the democratic process.
The state government had predicated its actions and pronouncement on alleged fake stories written by the affected journalists.
However, Okogwu urged the media to resist any attempt to turn it to a ‘lap dog’.
He also appealed to the state government to take advantage of established civil and legal channels in seeking redress instead of resorting to self-help.
He said that the group which is a forum of professionals of Ebonyi origin in Nigeria and in the diaspora; were not comfortable with the government’s stance as that could be counterproductive.
“These incidents were followed by a life ban of both reporters from the Government House and or any government facility in the state.
“We note that there are acceptable civil and legal channels for individuals, groups and governments to follow in addressing any perceived infringement with respect to falsehood or defamation.
“Our expectation was that the Government of Ebonyi and Ohaukwu Council should have exploited those channels in this circumstance, rather than resort to arrest of the reporters,” he said.
Okogwu said that the arrests and subsequent ban were condemnable as they amounted to arbitrariness and assault on press freedom.
“We also condemn the arbitrariness and the subsequent life ban from the Government House or any government facility in the state as placed on the duo and appeal for a review of such position,” he said.
He said that the state government needed to mend fences with the media to ensure that journalists conducted their activities in the state professionally without fear of harassment or undue victimization.
Okogwu said that such circumstance would bring to the fore the developmental activities, milestones and challenges of governance in the state.
“It will also foster the complementary relationship between the press and government authorities in the development and sustenance of the democratic system,” he said.
“We reiterate our commitment to ensuring transparency, accountability and ultimately good governance in Ebonyi and pledge our support to and cooperation with stakeholders who pursue similar goals,” Okogwu said.
It would be recalled that two journalists were recently arrested by the orders of the state government and subsequently barred from the Government House and covering any state government events.