Newspaper vendors in Anambra State have protested the alleged ban on newsstands across the state by the state government, calling for the impeachment of the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo for breaching citizens’ rights of freedom of the press.
According to them, government agents harassed them daily, asking them to rent offices/shops where they would ply their trade of newspaper sales and distribution.
Some of the vendors who spoke with our correspondents on Sunday said,” We’re going to the House of Assembly next week to ask them to impeach this governor. We can’t understand what his government is doing. It has been protests everyday by the citizenry over obnoxious policies.
“Today, “If it’s not the Keke operators; it’s the shuttle bus drivers or traders protesting heavy taxes and levies. What are all these? Many will die before Soludo’s tenure would end in the next three years if we continue this way.
A female vendor at Aroma, Esther Godwin, who spoke in the same vein, said some government agents came to her newsstand and warned her to stop selling newspapers there from next week, adding that when she asked them reason for the quit notice they told her it was Soludo’s decision
She said, “Even in London and America vendors still sell newspapers on the newsstands, despite their development. Why is Soludo telling us to rent offices where we will be selling newspapers. Where is the money do that at a time like this. We have planned to visit the Commissioner for Information to complain; if nothing positive comes out from our meeting with the Commissioner, we shall go to the State House of Assembly and call for his( Soludo’s) impeachment.
A lecturer of Mass communication, who spoke in confidence to our correspondent, described the alleged ban on newsstands in the state as executive madness.
He said newspaper sales and distribution were components of free press in a democratic society, stating that emasculating the newspaper vendors in any guise was unfair and against the tenets of constitutional democracy.
The lectirer added, “The mass media is central to the development of any democratic society. This has been generally acknowledged in developed societies to the extent that the media has often been described as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
“Nigeria, like other democracies, recognizes the role of the mass media and has gone to the extent of giving constitutional backing to it. The 1999 Constitution did not only guarantee every Nigerian freedom of expression and to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas, and opinions, but also gave obligations to the media to monitor governance and hold the government accountable to the people.
“Section 39 of the Constitution states that ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”’
“Section 22 of the Constitution states that yhe press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
“So, it’s only a government that has something to fear or hide that would want to restrict vendors from circulating newspaper and other periodicals,” the lectirer stated.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu, on the matter was not fruitful as his telephone line rang out several times.