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Vol. 10 N0 40 October 9- 15, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

My Stance On 'Non Disclosure' Remains Unshakable – Tunde Thompson

For the information of the younger generation of Nigerians, Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor are two of the nation's foremost icons in the news gathering and dissemination business. The duo evokes memories when viewed against the background of military tyranny against the media.

 

Under the administration of General Mohammadu Buhari, Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were both sent to jail under the obnoxious Decree No. 4 of 1984 which suppresses journalistic freedom.

Known simply as 'Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation, Section 1 (1) of the decree provides inter alia: 'Any Person who publishes in any form whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement being…calculated to bring the Federal Military government or the government of the state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offence under this decree'.

It was under this section that Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were charged for reporting and publishing that some of Nigeria's foreign missions were to be closed and that Maj. Gen. IBM Haruna was to replace Maj. Gen. Hananiya as new envoy to the United Kingdom, even as eight senior military officers have been tipped as ambassadors.

The authorities considered the publication embarrassing as the development were yet to be made public before the journalists went to town with the story.  Consequently, Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were arrested for contravening the provisions of Decree No. 4 and every effort by the security forces, including torture to make the journalists disclose the source of their information failed, as they refused to bulge even in pains.

This sense of fearless journalism came to the fore last weekend when National Network reporter ran into Mr. Tunde Thompson in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State where the journalistic sage chaired the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) organized workshop for South-South journalists on the need for professionalism in reporting conflicts and crises.

Putting him in context, he said he was making public appearance more than a year, following health challenges and that having overcame, he was now fit as fiddle to help the younger generation in promoting media issues and giving talks.

“For me, I take it as priority to educate the younger journalists on non disclosure of source of information.  I am going to be busy in the media front in the next one year and I hope to pursue the crusade vigorously” he said.

Mr. Thompson noted that there have been significant changes in the media, looking back at his days as Editor with the popular Guardian Newspaper, pointing especially to what he said was proliferation of the press.

“There are now more media houses, more journalists and they have the opportunity to move from one media house to another and above all, there are more media houses that are privately owned, against what used to be back in our days” he continued.

He added that proliferation in the media was not a bad development as long as professionalism remained the main focus, urging media owners not to undermine that core value of journalism.

“They should ensure that those who go to the field to source and report the news are well remunerated to avoid the temptation of corruption” said Mr. Thompson.

He praised the federal government on the Freedom of Information Act, noting that the law has made access to public information a lot easier, even as he urged journalists to leverage on the law and get more proactive in investigative reporting.

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