Ikeja, Aug. 16, 2012 (NAN) Journalists in Lagos State on Thursday stormed the Government House and Lagos State House of Assembly (LAHA) in Alausa, Ikeja, to protest what they called incessant harassment and brutality of their colleagues in the state.
Three photo journalists – Benedict Uwalaka of the Leadership newspape; Tunde Ogundeji, formerly of Nigerian Compass; and Idowu Ogunleye of The News/PM News, were assaulted in the last one week while performing their lawful duties.
Uwalaka was brutalised by mortuary attendants at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, while Ogunleye and Ogundeji were assaulted while trying to take pictures of passengers sitting on a moving train.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the journalists, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), staged a peaceful protest carrying placards with the various inscriptions.
Some of the placards read: "Journalists are friends, not foes", "We must resist these brutalities", "Enough is enough", "SSS, Police, the public, stop these assault on Nigerian journalists".
A spokesperson for the protesting newsmen, Mrs Tokunbo Olurinde, said media professionals operating in the state deserved protection against any form of assault or harassment.
"We decided to take the protest to the Government House to let the governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, know that we will no longer take it lightly with anyone who harasses journalists in the course of their duties.
"In one week, three journalists have been assaulted in the state with one of them almost beaten to coma.
"All we are saying is that this brutality must stop," she said.
Olurinde noted that journalists had been brutalised and killed in the state without any action taken by the authorities.
She said journalists and the public were adequately protected under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The Secretary of the union, Mr Silver Okereke, described recent attacks on newsmen in the state as one brutality too many.
He said: "Journalists have become endangered species, even when they are popularly described as the fourth estate of the realm.
"The three other arms of government – legislature, judiciary and the executive -- are adequately protected by the security agencies, but for us, we are left to our fate.
"If the government cannot protect journalists, there is no need to recognise them in the country’s constitution. These incessant harassment should stop forthwith.
Mr Lateef Raji, the Special Assistant on Media to Gov. Fashola, addressed the demonstrators, and received the protest letter on behalf of the governor, who was away in Mecca , Saudi Arabia, for the lesser Hajj.
Raji also conveyed the state government's apology to the NUJ over the attacks on their members, saying it was not in the character of the state government to allow such a development.
He said the perpetrator of the LASUTH incident had been arrested, and the government had instructed the state's Office of the Public Defender (OPD), to commence legal action against the suspect .
While commending journalists in the state for partnering the government on development, the Special Assistant assured the journalists that the government would always create the right atmosphere for the discharge of their duties.
"There is no orchestrated plan to harass Nigerian journalists, most especially those practising here in Lagos.
"All of these issues are probably one of those spontaneous reactions by some overzealous members of the society, who have just decided to take the laws into their own hands.
"This administration is an advocate of punishment for simple crimes, which is one of the reasons why we enacted a good number of laws, which prescribed punishments for all forms of offences.
"We assure you of maximum co-operation in the prosecution of this issue, and as friends and partners in progress, we appreciate this peaceful protest.
"This is what we expect of Nigerian journalists. This is commendable," Raji said.