The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has said that Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, does not have the constitutional power to hinder the operations of the media in a democracy.
Umahi recently barred two journalists who work with Vanguard and The Sun newspapers from covering state functions.
The NBA, however, said in a statement on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, that the governor’s action was a ‘sad reminder’ of military rule in the country.
“The Nigerian Bar Association views the reported threat ascribed to the Governor of Ebonyi State allegedly banning two journalists for life as unfortunate and a sad reminder of the rule by force under the military regime,” the statement read.
“The Nigerian Press constitutes the fourth realm in the democracy estate and plays a very important function in ensuring the growth of our democracy.
“The right to Freedom of expression and the right to impart and disseminate information are constitutionally guaranteed rights under the Nigerian 1999 Constitution and same cannot be taken away by Executive fiat.
“The law against libel is available for anyone seeking remedies against false publications.
“Our democracy requires an unfettered and courageous press to grow. It is anti-people to gag the press.
“Government is expected to partner with the media, civil society organizations and professional organisations like the NBA to help in the delivery of the dividends of democracy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up a lot of challenges for the government and citizens of Nigeria.
“However, in addressing same and carrying out the functions of governance, government officials should act within the confines of the law.”