The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the attack on the headquarters of The Nation Newspaper and TV Continental (TVC) is an attack on democracy and freedom of the press.
The minister stated this on Saturday in Lagos when he led heads of agencies in his ministry to commiserate with the management and staff of the two media houses.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the headquarters of Vintage Press Limited, publisher of The Nation newspaper and Sporting Life as well as that of TV Continental, were looted and burnt by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protest.
Speaking after inspecting the extent of damage at the Vintage Press premises, the minister said that the attack was premeditated to silence the press in the defence of democracy.
“From our tour and your explanation, it is clear that this attack was not just premeditated, it is targeted on free press and democracy because there cannot be viral and robust democracy without a free media.
“While we are saddened by the extensive damage done, we have cause to give thanks to God that no life was lost.
“From the gunshots on the wall and windows, there would have been worse casualties.
“However, the fact that within a few days you are able to return to the stands is a big blow to the naysayers who thought they could put out a light of press freedom,’’ he said.
The minister said that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has high regard for freedom of the press and will put policies in place to ensure the media work uninhibited.
The minister reiterated that the intention of the perpetrators was to silence the media.
Mohammed, who lamented the looting and burning of OBV vans and staff buses as well as vehicles of workers, said the level of damage was unimaginable.
“The level of damage is unimaginable, especially at this very trying time and more saddening when the attack is unprovoked.
“However, we want to thank God that despite all the destruction, no life was lost and you have been able to come back on air a few days later,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Yomi Edun, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vintage Press Limited, said that the attack reflected the hazards associated with the media profession.
“Journalists and media people suffer all kinds of indignity in the course of doing their jobs.
“They are beaten, brutalised, tortured incarcerated and even killed in the course of discharging their duties
” Last week, these premises where we produce and print our titles came under vicious and directed attack.
“They invaded the premises with all manner of weapons, including guns, and set it ablaze and many properties were carted away,’’ he said
Edun also said the attack was meant to silence the media in its task of informing, educating and entertaining the public.
He said with the resilience of the management and members of staff of the organisation, the newspaper returned to the newsstand two days after the attack,
“Right now, we are operating in a skeletal manner because of the damage that was done to the facility,’’ he said
Edun thanked the minister and the entourage for the visit, describing it as a tremendous morale booster.
Similarly, Mr Andrew Hanlon, the Chief Executive Officer of TVC Communications, said the attack was devastating.
He, however, vowed that the television house would continue to persevere in the face of adversity.
Hanlon, who thanked the delegation for the visit, said the media house had to mobilise all resources to come back on the air.
Among heads of agencies in the minister’s delegation was Mr Buki Ponle, the Managing Director of NAN. (NAN)