The Members of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Ebonyi State at the weekend gives 48 hours to the commissioner of information, Mr Uchenna Orji to tender an unreserved apology for alleged betrayal and deceiving the general public.
Recall that, the governor David Umahi had arrested, intimidated and harassed two journalists; Peter Okutu of the vanguard and Chijioke Egwu of the Daily Sun for doing a report on the outbreak of lassa fever and invasion of the military into Ohaukwu community.
But, following their release, Umahi in a live broadcast pronounced a ‘life ban’ on the two Reporters from entering all government facilities in the state including the government house.
The chapel, as a result of the development, convoked an emergency meeting in Abakaliki and through in a 6 points communiqué, signed by the state secretary of the chapel, Comrade Samson Nwafor and issued to journalists, took the following decisions.
They condemned the arrest of two of its members on the orders of the state government, and declared readiness to boycott all government activities pending when the governor and his commissioner of information tenders apology for betraying journalists in the state and deceiving the general public.
The communiqué reads in part: “We condemn the illegal arrest, intimidation, harrassment and ‘life ban’ imposed on two of our members, The Sun and the Vanguard Correspondents, and the inciteful statement against Journalists in the State”
“We commend the National leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), International Press Council (IPC), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Projects (SERAP), Civil Liberty Organisations (CLOs), and host of other non-state actors for standing by Journalists in Ebonyi State in this trying moment.
The Chapel also lampooned the Commissioner for Information, Mr Uchenna Orji over a statement he issued following a meeting he held with members to resolve the life ban on the two Reporters
“That rather than focusing on the issues raised, especially as it concerns lifting of the ‘life ban’ on two of our members, Mr. Chijioke Agwu of The Sun Newspaper and Mr. Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspaper, and ways to ensure that the lives of Journalists operating in the State are guaranteed, the Commissioner embarked on pernicious propaganda to save his job and drag members of the Chapel to the mud.
“We wish to clarify that the meeting was held at the instance of the Commissioner to appease members of the Chapel.
“The purported joint press briefing where our Chairman, Mr. Jacob Ogodo, was quoted to have eulogized the Governor for arresting our members, was a ruse and a calculated attempt to smear the image of the Chapel, its leadership and confuse the general public”.
The chapel described the Commissioner’s action as “an act of betrayal and wish to demand that the Commissioner retracts the statement with apologies within 48hours” the group stated.