Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has said it has no confidence in the proposed investigation by the Department of State Services (DSS) into the reported assault on Oluwagbemiga Olamikan, a photojournalist with Vanguard newspaper by officials of the agency.
MRA described the proposed investigation as an exercise in futility which can have no credibility and thereafter called for a serious, independent and impartial investigation into this and other attacks against journalists.
In a statement issued in Lagos rejecting the proposed DSS investigation, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, said, “the idea that the DSS plans to investigate itself in order to bring about a resolution of this matter is offensive to any concept of justice or fairness and runs counter to the well-established legal principle of fairness that you cannot be a judge in your own cause.”
According to her, “if anyone has any doubt about the inherent lack of credibility of such a process, the person needs to look no further than the statement made by Dr. Peter Afunanya, the Public Relations Officer of the DSS, on August 3 in announcing the plan by the security agency to conduct an investigation and even before any investigation has started, that the DSS is a responsible security organisation with good working relationship with the media and so could not have assaulted journalists.”
Ms Okonkwo argued that having already reached a conclusion absolving the agency of any blame even before any investigation, it is difficult for any fair-minded person to believe that the DSS can have an open mind to conduct a fair and impartial investigation that is likely to result in its own indictment or establish the culpability of its personnel.
Ms Okonkwo called on the Federal Government to live up to its obligations freely entered into by Nigeria at the levels of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations by launching an independent and impartial investigation into the reported assault on Mr. Olamikan as well as other attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensuring that the perpetrators in all the cases are prosecuted and punished.
She said it is only by so doing that the Government can begin to address the culture of impunity that has festered in the country, especially in cases of crimes against journalists and other media practitioners, for which no single person has ever been prosecuted in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the International Press Centre, IPC, in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, demanded “immediate investigation and prosecution of the security operatives responsible for the assault to serve as a deterrent to others who may want to engage in similar act of brutality.
“An unreserved apology should be tendered to Mr. Olamikan while he should be well compensated”
Condemning the incident, IPC noted that, “this occurrence is another indication that journalists’ rights and press freedom are ceaselessly being disregarded in the country.
“Journalists are legitimately authorised to carry out their duties without interference and their harassment in the course of duty in a matter of immense public interest is appalling and unacceptable.”