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The Nigerian Press Organisations (NPO), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), on Tuesday paid a solidarity visit to the Television Continental (TVC) and The Nation Newspapers.
Their visit was to sympathise with the organisations over attacks on them by suspected hoodlums during the #EndSARS protest.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that TVC and The Nation Newspapers, owned by the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), former Sen. Ahmed Tinubu, were attacked on Wednesday in Lagos by suspected hoodlums hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protesters.
The President of NPO, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, who led the visitors, told the managements of the two organisations that their solidarity visit was not only for them but for all journalists and for a free press in Nigeria.
Obaigbena said that though journalists were attacked but they were not intimidated against carrying out their constitutional responsibilities, stressing that the attack was unacceptable to NPO.
He commended The Nation Newspapers for its Editorial page two days after the attack seeking for a better Police force and society, and urged journalists working in the two organisations not to be silenced through the attack, rather, they should always stand for the truth.
Obaigbena said what he saw at TVC was a scene of “utter devastation’’, stressing that an attack on a medium is an attack on everybody.
“No matter the divide, we must always support free speech and expression of truth. TVC in their broadcasting supported the protests for better Police reform. We are in utter shock as to what we have seen,’’ Obaigbena said.
Mr Guy Bruce, President of the Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), sympathised with the management of TVC, noting that it was cowardly of the people to come to TVC to destroy such an edifice.
Mr Ken Ugbeche, Publicity Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), said TVC stood for the truth and as a purveyor of the truth, urging the management of TVC to keep the flag flying as no one could break the spirit.
“At the NGE, we have come with a message of hope,’’ he said.
The President of NUJ, Mr Chris Isiguzo, noted that the attack on the two organisations and others across the nation was an attack on all media practitioners in Nigeria.
Isiguzo described the attacks as unfortunate trying to pigeon hole the media, and that silencing the media would be silencing good governance and development in Nigeria.
He called on the government to uncover those behind the attacks and bring them to justice, while he assured the two organisations of NUJ’s support.
Mr Ray Ekpu, a veteran journalist, said the media had always been an endangered specie either during military or civilian governments, stressing that with all the attacks, Nigeria press remained resilient.
Ekpu, who frowned at the fine imposed on three media organisations by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation over their coverage of #EndSARS protest in Lagos, urged the NBC to discuss the issue with the organisations rather than fine.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Vintage Press, Publisher of The Nation Newspapers, Mr Wale Edun, commended the solidarity by the media leaders, noting that the visit was an encouragement to the staff.
Edun said the incident was one of the hazards of journalism, adding that a journalist was either beaten, imprisoned or killed in the course of duty, describing the attack as assault against free speech and on the media as a whole.
He said that those who came for the attacks had a mindset of what they wanted to do, which was to silence The Nation Newspapers from business, but that due to the resilience of management and staff, the papers were back to the newsstands.
The managing director expressed gratitude to God that no life was lost in the attack.
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer, TVC Communications, Mr Andrew Hanlon, lamented that the magnificent building that housed five studios and three master control rooms was burnt.
Hanlon explained that the brand new software and other equipment were gone in the inferno, however, that no life was lost.
“lives cannot be replaced but other things can be replaced. The studios served seven million audiences a day in Nigeria and Africa. The damage was worth billions of Naira. Four satellite TV news gathering buses worth 250,000 dollars each were also burnt.
“It is a very sad occasion for us but we make sure our 550 staff is well. First thing, is to ensure the safety of our staff and pay them at the end of the month.
“By Saturday afternoon, we had TVC news back on air. All the five services are back in business. Our plan is to build a bigger and better station. In six to seven months, you will see a transformed TVC,’’ Hanlon said.
He thanked the visit by members of the NPO and noted that the press was vital to democracy and as such, the management of TVC would ensure balanced coverage toward all parties.
Other persons on the solidarity visit are Pa Sam Amuka, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, Managing Director, SUN Newspapers, Chief Segun Osoba, former Ogun Governor,
Also on the delegation are Maiden Ibru, Chairman of Guardian Newspapers, Steve Nwosu, Publisher of Nigerian Xpress, Mr Adeleye Ajayi, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of NAN, Mr Gbenga Adefaye, Dr Qasim Akinreti and Mrs Comfort Obi among others.