Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the Federal Government will not do anything to stifle press freedom in the country.
Mohammed made this known in a statement on Tuesday, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari appreciates the fact that a free press is vital to the success of any democracy.
The Minister’s statement is coming few days after the police stormed the office of an online newspaper, Premium Times, ransacking the office and arresting the publisher of the paper, Dapo Olorunyomi, as well as the paper’s judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu.
However, Mohammed clarified that the federal government has nothing to do with the arrests which he described “purely a private affair involving a citizen and a privately-owned newspaper.”
The minister wondered how and why some people were misconstruing the incident as an “attempt by the government to intimidate the press.”
”We have said it before and we want to re-state it: The Federal Government has no immediate or long-term plan to stifle press freedom,” Mohammed reiterated.
“Even the Social Media, with its warts and all, will neither be regulated nor have its operations tampered with,” he assured.
Nigerian army had also clarified that it was the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who in his personal capacity, instituted a legal action against Premium Times for allegedly publishing false and misleading information against him.
The army, through its spokesman, Sani Usman, said the issue has nothing to do with the Nigerian army as Buratai did not file the charges in his capacity as the COAS.
Usman, however, said that “The case between the Nigerian Army and the Premium Times, of jeopardizing military operations, fraudulently obtaining and disclosure of military information that led to deaths and loss of equipment, is still in the offing.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, President Buhari, who is currently on a 10-day vacation in the United Kingdom, brushed aside claims that he was clamping down on the media.
Buhari, via his social media handle, said that he was proud of the Nigerian media, adding that he was always in tune with happenings in the country and that his favourite television channel was the popular Nigerian news station: Channels Television.