HURIWA endorses newspaper’s pro-media freedom protest, criticises govt on crackdown

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With emphatic and resounding applause, the leading pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has praised Newspapers publishers in Nigeria for standing in support of media freedoms through a collective page one protest.

The Rights group has raised alarm about the rash of anti-media and anti-people’s measures, policies and projects being systematically executed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the National Assembly aimed at crippling laws protecting Rights to the privacy of the citizens and the plethora of anti-media freedoms legislations and actions being implemented by the Central government.

“Every right-thinking lover of freedoms globally should be exceedingly proud of the publishers of leading national dailies in Nigeria over the page one protest named ‘Information blackout’. lovers of democracy should resolutely stand with the Nigerian press in strong opposition to the misguided federal government’s funded amendments to the Nigerian Press Councils Act and the National Broadcasting Commission’s media Act amendments bill before the National Assembly.

“We in the organized civil rights movement are opposed to the cocktails of coordinated attacks against media freedoms by the All-Progressive Congress-led central parliament.

“The Senator Ahmad Lawan-led lame duck senate and the Femi Gbajabiamila enslaved Federal House of Representatives which is obviously the federal house of infamy will go down in history as appendages of a vicious dictatorial executive arm of government”.

The Rights group in a statement signed by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and Media Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf has tasked Nigerians to wake up, smell the coffee and realize that right now the government that came in making generous use of the media including the spread of fake news against the then government is heavily cracking down on constitutional democracy.

HURIWA, however, carpeted the National Assembly over the approval of the N4.87bn budget for the National Intelligence Agency to track, intercept and monitor calls and messages on mobile devices, including Thuraya and WhatsApp.

The Rights group said the amount is reportedly part of the N895.8bn supplementary budget submitted by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), last month and approved by both chambers of the federal parliament last week after increasing it by about N87bn.

The budget according to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, is meant to procure equipment for the military and to fight the further spread of COVID-19.

Details of the supplementary budget obtained by our correspondent revealed that the NIA would spend N2,938,650,000 on the Thuraya interception solution, while the WhatsApp interception solution would gulp N1, 931,700,000.

Apart from this, the NIA got additional N129m to enable its personnel to embark on foreign training.

The Defence Intelligence Agency, on its part, got a capital vote of N16.8bn to provide infrastructure, cyber intelligence centre/laboratory, independent lawful intercept platform (voice and advanced data monitoring) and tactical mobile geological platform.

HURIWA expressed profound shocks and trepidation that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is fixated on spying on the citizens which means that the government has stopped being the government of the people for the people and by the people and has transformed itself into a dictatorship of oppressors and suppressors of the will of the people because if the elected administration keeps to its oath of office, then it ought not to spend public fund seeking to listen to private conversations of citizens since clear consciences fear no accusations.

The Rights group regretted that even with the overwhelming budgets to the Intelligence community made by President Buhari since 2015, the administration keeps pampering Fulani herdsmen armed and terrorizing communities all over Nigeria only because the heads of the security forces and the President are Fulanis like the armed terrorists threatening the territorial integrity of the nation with no counter-terrorism actions by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.