The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the prosecution of military officers involved in the recent harassment on Daily Trust, The Nation and Leadership Newspapers.
Also, the Lagos State House of Assembly has condemned the alleged intimidation and all forms of harassment of pressmen by men of the armed forces.
The congress also called for adequate compensation to be paid to the organisations to cover the losses they incurred.
The officers, the NLC said, should be treated as enemies of democracy as their actions, which involved the harassment of vendors and arrest of circulation drivers of the newspaper houses, were absolutely unacceptable and clearly out of place in any democratic society.
In a statement signed by its President, Mr. Abdulwahed Omar, the congress accused the military of trying to link the local media to the ongoing violent attacks against the people and critical facilities in the country.
It noted the absurdity of such plot, as foreign media organisations seem to have more access to information on these violent groups, especially Boko Haram, than Nigeria's security agents.
"The military and all the security agencies ought to know that all fundamental rights are germane to democracy and therefore lack constitutional and legal rights to unilaterally order the circumscription of freedom of press or any freedom in any form as we cannot find the link between insecurity and a free press in democratic governance," the NLC said.
It expressed its belief that a free press remains critical to the sustenance of democracy, and would therefore resist any attempt to any obstruction to the operations of any critical organ of Nigeria's democratic process.
NLC also cautioned that the period of impunity associated with unaccountable military dictatorships should not be reawakened by those elected under democratic platforms as such would mean an open invitation to anarchy.
Meanwhile, while raising the matter under matters of urgent public importance at plenary, Hon. Moshood Oshun, who represents Lagos Mainland Constituency 2 in the state assembly, said the seizure of the publications was meant to kill the press, adding that that used to be the norm under the military government, but that it was wrong under a democratic government.
“If the federal government felt bad about any report, it should go to a court of law rather than harassing, beating and detaining newspaper vendors, who don’t even know how the reports in the newspapers were written. It is wrong for the government to seize newspaper copies at this material time in the country,” he said.
The Speaker of the state assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, said it was not possible to kill the press, adding that even the military could not kill the press.
“If they don’t allow the press to publish openly, they would go underground and still publish. There is no way the federal government can kill the press. They should bring back our girls and fight Boko Haram members instead of fighting the press,” he stated.
On his part, Hon. Rotimi Olowo from Shomolu Constituency 1, said he was surprised to read the report in the media.
He described the incident as an abuse of office under a democratic government, and called on the assembly to make the federal government realise that the nation was no longer under a military system of government.