The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, has condemned the unwarranted assault and flogging of a staff of Rhythm/Silverbird Television, Nkan-kpo Johnson, by a soldier deployed to enforce the lockdown order by the Rivers State Government, at the Ikoku area of Port Harcourt.
The lockdown was part of efforts by the state government to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the State.
The Union, in a statement jointly signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Stanley Job Stanley and Ike Wigodo respectively, described the flogging of Nkan-kpo Johnson, a videographer attached to Silverbird Television as a barbaric act unexpected of any well-trained and well-behaved soldier.
“The flogging of any person let alone a journalist, by a law enforcement agent is not only condemnable and inhumane, but also a barbaric act unexpected of a well-trained, well-behaved officer, especially in view of the existing cordial relationship between the NUJ and the Nigerian Army in the state”, the Union said.
The NUJ, therefore, called on the Nigerian Army and other law enforcement agencies in the state to rein in on their men and put a stop to harassment of men of the Press who put their lives at risk to report government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
The statement also urged the Army authorities and other security apparatchiks in the state to educate and enlighten their men on the role of journalists in the society, as well as cultivate the culture of reporting any erring member of the Union to NUJ leadership if we must sustain the good relationship with the security agencies.
Meanwhile, the NUJ has appealed to the Rivers State Government, multinational organisations and good spirited individuals to extend their palliative measures to journalists in the state.
The statement noted that despite the contributions of journalists to flatten the curve of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, their efforts have not been fully appreciated, and therefore, called on the state government, multinational organisations and well meaning individuals to consider inclusion of journalists in their welfare packages.
According to the Union, “in view of the essential services rendered by journalists during this critical period and the possibility of their vulnerability (including their family members) to COVID-19, journalists in the state deserve government’s support and encouragement in terms of palliatives, protective kits and working tools to enhance their performance, promote effective reportage on the pandemic and also protect them from infection”.