Joseph Mutah, Chief Press Secretary to Information Minister Lai Mohammed, ostensibly acting on the orders of his principal on Wednesday issued a threat to Ms. Aziza Uko, Publisher of a leading online newspaper, The Trent.
Angered by The Trent’s headline, which reported a story titled; “Buhari Knows That He Hasn’t Delivered The Promised Change – Lai Mohammed”, Mutah wrote to Ms. Uko demanding an immediate withdrawal of the report and an unreserved apology.
“The headline is grossly misleading because it has no correlation with the content of the story. I demand that you immediately withdraw the headline and tender an unreserved apology”, Mutah wrote.
But in defiance of the threat from the Information Minister’s office, Ms. Uko replied; “What do you mean by this threat? Your press release was published without any editing. The headline is not misleading. The body of the story is all about admitting that Nigerians are in pain and still awaiting the promised change. Everybody has editorial liberty to headline a story based on the content on the story. Don’t you ever EVER threaten me again!
“This government has spent all its time trying to intimidate and manipulate the press and by extension Nigerians, instead of delivering governance to the people. Rather than trying to control the media and restrict free speech, why not try telling the truth and stop playing mind games?”
The Buhari administration has come under heavy public criticism over its attempt to gag free speech.
A bill seeking to proscribe free speech in the Nigerian social media recently hit a brick wall after citizens mobilized against attempts to pass the obnoxious bill.
It will be recalled that Information Minister Lai Mohammed recently met with some selected online newspaper publishers in Lagos where he called for the need for online media platforms to self-regulate. The meeting was followed with a backlash in the social media over claims that the call for self-regulation was a veiled attempt to gag the press. The development forced Lai Mohammed to recant stating that the Buhari administration will not regulate online media.