The state Governor, Dave Umahi, during a live broadcast on Wednesday on the state-owned television and radio stations said he was displeased with the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists for failing to discipline the reporters.
Umahi had last Saturday ordered the arrest of Agwu over a report he wrote on Lassa fever outbreak in the state. He was later released.
Three days later, Okutu was arrested on the orders of the Ohaukwu Local Government Area Chairman, Mr Clement Odah, over his report on the alleged military invasion of Umuogodoakpu-Ngbo community in the council area.
Umahi said he could no longer guarantee the safety of journalists in the state, pointing out that the people were angry and might begin to attack reporters.
He said, “Ebonyi State is no longer a dumping ground. Only the other day, Chijioke Agwu wrote that Lassa fever was killing Ebonyi people in droves and few days back, Mr Peter Okutu of Vanguard, did his own.
“Okutu is fond of degrading Ebonyi State, and I don’t know why my officials have allowed him to continue to do that, because he is not from Ebonyi State. I want to ban him for life with Chijioke Agwu. I don’t want to see them anywhere in any government facility.
“We are not begging you to give us good reports, because the only person that gives good or bad report is God. We are all accountable to Him. If you think that Ebonyi State is a dumping ground, try it again.
“If you think you have the pen, we have the koboko. Let’s leave the court alone. Ebonyi people are very angry with the press and let me warn that I won’t be able to control them or know when they unleash mayhem on you if you continue to write to create panic in the state.
“I want you to write it that way; that I said the press in Ebonyi is trying to create another COVID-19 that is more dangerous and that is to create panic in our people.
“The other one wrote that cholera had killed 20 people in Ohaukwu. If you try it again, I may not know when Ebonyians may react. This is important for the NUJ to know.”
Meanwhile, the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, said Umahi ordered the arrest of innocent journalists because they exposed the ills of his administration.
The proscribed group also alleged that the, “Ongoing genocide and unprovoked attacks against hapless Ebonyi people by Fulani herdsmen, terrorists and in some instances, security operatives, were unbecoming.”
According to the secessionist group, it is no longer in doubt that the governor is supporting the humiliation and killing of indigenes.
“Under Governor Dave Umahi, journalists who believe in reporting truths, are no longer safe,” it said in a statement signed by its Director of Media and Publicity, Emma Powerful.
“Governor Dave Umahi must stop his infamous clampdown on innocent journalists because they committed no crime against his government. It is the right and duty of journalists as the watchdog of society to expose atrocities of both criminals and state actors for the good of all. IPOB will no longer tolerate intimidation, humiliation and arrest of innocent Biafrans, including journalists, and other residents for no just cause,” Powerful added.
Also, the Nigeria Union of Journalists asked the governor to desist from instigating “degrading treatments” of journalists in the state.
A statement titled, ‘Stop this impunity against journalists’ and signed by the National Secretary of the NUJ, Shuaibu Leman, noted that the governor was “attaining notoriety in his continuous harassment, detention and insults on journalists who dared to report what he felt were against the interest of his government.”