UK condemns military invasion of Daily Trust Newspaper

Public outrage has greeted the armed soldiers’ invasion of the national headquarters of Media Trust Limited, the publishers of the Daily Trust titles in Jabi, Abuja and its outstation office in Maiduguri on Sunday night.
Armed soldiers had on Sunday invaded the premises of the media outfit in Abuja, and Maiduguri and carted away computers, laptops and arrested the Regional Editor, Uthman Abubakar, and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab.
The United Kingdom on Monday condemned the military invasion of the Daily Trust newspaper offices in Borno and Abuja and the arrest of its journalists by soldiers on Sunday.
It described the action as rash, noting that a free press which is able to challenge and comment on the actions of the nation was an essential cornerstone and hallmark of democracy across the globe, insisting that “this freedom is an inviolable and absolute right.”
The UK Department for International Development in Nigeria in a statement in Abuja on Monday by its Communications Officer, David Smith, advised the military to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders on how best to work together to deliver for the people of Nigeria.
The DFID stated, “Whilst we welcome the swift and decisive action from the Federal Government in resolving this incident, the existence of the raid alone remains a concerning development in Nigeria.
“The United Kingdom believes that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are fundamental democratic principles, and their right is absolute and inviolable.
“A free press is the hallmark of a civilised and democratic nation, and efforts to subvert or silence such organisations are the colours of tyranny and authoritarianism.
“Rather than resorting to rash tactics of raids and arrests, a strong foundation of dialogue and trust will resolve issues before they create friction.”
The United Kingdom said it would continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly as the 2019 presidential election drew closer.
Also, the Head of the UK Department for International Development in Nigeria, Ms Debbie Palmer, said, “This is a concerning development for Nigeria, and I am disappointed that such rash action was taken by the authorities.”
However, the Nigerian Army said it invaded the Daily Trust offices in Abuja and Maiduguri, Borno State, to invite workers of the media company over a story in its Sunday publication “which divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”
The army said the invasion was “done with the best of intention” claiming that its invitation to the newspaper organisation’s workers was to enable them to realise the import of the publication to national security.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, in a statement, said the publication of classified security information amounted to a breach of national security and ran contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secret Act.
Usman was however silent on the carting away of computer sets from the media organisation and the arrest of two workers in Maiduguri, whose whereabouts were reportedly unknown as of press time.
The army spokesman said, “We would like to state that soldiers of the Nigerian Army along with the elements of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies were indeed at the Abuja and Maiduguri offices of the publishing company to invite the staff of the company over its lead story on Sunday which divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.
“In it, the newspaper disclosed details of planned military operations against the Boko Haram terrorists. The disclosure of classified security information amounts to a breach of national security and runs contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secret Act. It afforded the Boko Haram terrorists prior notice of our plans and giving them early warning to prepare against the Nigerian military, thus sabotaging the planned operations and putting the lives of troops in imminent and clear danger.
“We would like to state that the invitation of those responsible for divulging military plans was done with the best of intention in order to make them realise the import of such acts to our national security. We would not tolerate a situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.
“We would like to further assure that the invitation is for further investigation and if need be, all those culpable of jeopardising operations security will be prosecuted by the relevant law enforcement agency.”

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