The Director-General, Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, announced that the service has removed the Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, from its watch list in which his name featured for 38 years. JULIANA FRANCIS recently speaks with Arogundade on the issue.
What did you do that made DSS put your name on its watchlist?
It is for the DSS to say what I did. On my way to Gambia, one of the officials said I shouldn’t be surprised at my ill-treatment because comrades like me were regarded as anti-establishment people.
On my return I was subjected to further harassment – my passport was seized for a while, and I was held at their international airport’s office. Following uproar and condemnation, they said it was a case of mistaken identify. Now, during the recent visit by International Press Institute (IPI), they claimed I had been on watchlist since the days of my activism in the University, especially as National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) President.
But I also believe I have been on the so-called watch list due to my journalism, press freedom, pro-democracy, trade union and socialist activism. Remember I was chairman of Lagos Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) under another military dictatorship whose attacks on journalists and the media we resisted.
How do you feel about the removal of your name from the DSS’s watchlist?
I feel grateful to the Nigeria chapter of International Press Institute (IPI) led by Muskiliu Mojeed, which confronted the DSS leadership with my case as part of its engagement with the security agencies over press freedom violations.
I also feel grateful to the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), NUJ, the press freedom and human rights community, my lawyers, and the legal community and all those who spoke out against my unjust treatment by the DSS. Well, it is good to know that one is finally off their watch-list after 38 long years.
What is your reaction to allegations and fear that the media is under surveillance by the government?
It is an open secret. The IPC joins in demanding a halt to such surveillance. As I have stated before, we should assume that every journalist is on the security agencies watch-list, which does not augur well for democracy because such actions undermine the capacity of the Nigerian media to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people as constitutionally stipulated.
Do you think that fear can hinder the media from doing its job properly?
It is already a hindrance. Many journalists currently work under threat and fear. In some states, they get randomly called by state agents who warn them to mind the stories they write. We have much more to do to protect journalists and stop the press freedom space from shrinking further.BEWARE All Rights Reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without prior express written permission from Juliana Francis