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MRA urges Niger governor to probe harassment of journalist

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Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, to investigate reports that his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Ms Mary Noel-Barje, ordered the arrest of The Punch correspondent, Mr. Adebayo Ayinde, and directed security men to bar him from the Government House for undisclosed reasons.

In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday, MRA Project Director, Segun Fatuase, urged the governor to sack the CPS, if she engaged in the illegal activities of using law enforcement agents to intimidate, harass and prevent the journalist from carrying out his professional duties.

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According to MRA, if Ms. Noel-Barje is harassing journalists and antagonising the Government House press corps, instead of facilitating their work, it is clear that she is not serving the best interest of the governor or the state government.

The CPS had reportedly sent the reporter’s pictures to some security personnel in the state and instructed those at the Government House to bar him from entry. Government House security was also reported to have confirmed that the CPS had told them to arrest Mr. Ayinde.

“It is certainly not the role or function of a CPS, who should facilitate good relations between the government she is serving and the media, to be ordering the arrest of journalists or obstructing the performance of their professional duties. It is apparent, from her actions, that Ms. Noel-Barje does not know her job,” Fatuase stated.

He noted that besides painting the state government and the governor in a bad light, the action of the CPS action constituted an illegal and unwarranted attack on the journalist capable of engendering his safety and security.

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