APC Upturns Ban on AIT

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Lai Mohammed

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The All Progressives Congress overrules the decision by the handlers of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, president-elect, to stop The African Independent Television from covering his activities

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Apr. 29, 2015 @ 14:10 GMT  |

AMIDST the outcry generated by the move to stop the African Independent Television, AIT, on Monday, April 27, from covering the activities of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, president-elect, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has swiftly dismissed the action as untrue. APC’s statement came in the wake of the alarm raised by the Peoples Democratic Party, journalists and prominent Nigerians over the threat to undermining press freedom.

A statement issued by Lai Muhammed, spokesman of APC, said that accredited media organisations in the country, including African Independent Television, AIT, were free to cover the activities of the president-elect. According to Mohammed, the incoming Buhari administration will not discriminate against any media organisation, irrespective of its role during the electioneering campaign leading up to the recent polls.

He, however, enjoined all media organisations to observe the highest level of professional standards in carrying out his duties. “There is a Code of Ethics guiding the practice of journal ism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out his duties. There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organisations which have wantonly breached the Code of Ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organisation from covering the activities of the president-elect,’’ APC said.

Olisah Metuh
Metuh

Nonetheless, Olisa Metuh, spokesman of PDP, on Tuesday, April 28, said “after carefully studying the defense posited by General Buhari’s campaign spokesperson as well as the statement by the APC to cover and mitigate his anti-media posture, the PDP and indeed all lovers of democracy are persuaded that the action was not only unjustifiable, but also unconstitutional and completely against the spirit of liberty and the rule of law in a democracy.”

“The PDP as a party that has nurtured the nation’s democracy in the past 16 years cannot afford to fold its hands and watch the constitutional rights, media freedom and personal liberty of Nigerians, the basic tenets of democracy being demolished. We ask, is this a beginning of the feared erosion of the freedom and personal liberty the media and Nigerian citizens have been enjoying in the last 16 years under the PDP led-administration? Has our dear nation finally fallen into the clutches of totalitarianism and impunity where government actions will based on egocentric decisions and impulses of individuals rather than the rule of law?

“While we assure the president-elect of our resolve to run a mature and responsible opposition based on issues, we are disturbed by this emerging development and reassure the Nigerian people that we will continue to stand with them on issues of democracy and freedom at all times.

“Perhaps, we need to remind General Buhari that part of the challenge of his new position, even as President-elect is that he has lost his private life which is now subject to public scrutiny and media interrogation, as required of the custodian of the mandate of the Nigerian people”, Metuh said.

According to him, the PDP is not oblivious of the background of the president-elect especially as it relates to the freedom of the media, but we had thought that having declared to be a converted democrat, he would make himself amenable to the basic principles of democracy by following the due process of the law on any circumstance.”

Similarly, Olu Adegboruwa, a lawyer, said barring AIT was totally unacceptable, unpalatable and dictatorial. It has no place in our new Nigeria.” Citing the 1999 Constitution and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Adegboruwa said AIT could not be subjected to any treatment to which other news media are not subjected to. He said while his position is not to endorse the actions of AIT, any grievance against the media house must be dealt with in a manner prescribed by law.

Buhari
Buhari

“This decision is draconian and dictatorial, throwing us back to the very dark days of 1984, when the same Buhari gagged the press and threw journalists into jail. This decision is contrary to the manifesto of the All Progressive Congress, it is contrary to the campaign promises of Buhari himself and it is contrary to the laws of Nigeria and the minimum expectations of human development. In particular, Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution demands the press to hold government accountable to the people. How can the press do that, if they are subjected to such Stone Age rule and barrack practice of press guillotine? How can a president-elect chose which media outfit he will allow to cover his official engagements?” he queried.

Also, Inusa Sule, publicity director of the SSPP, in a statement said the president-elect and the APC should be reminded that the 1999 Constitution as amended gives the press the right to hold government and its officials accountable to the people, therefore, urged all Nigerians of good conscience to stoutly resist the scare tactics of the incoming regime.

“The decision by the APC and the president-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to bar AIT from covering their events is unfortunate and a scare tactic against the media from putting the searchlight on the incoming regime.  If the President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, feels strongly about the documentaries aired on him by the AIT, he should seek legal recourse against the sponsors and not to maul the station. The action demonstrates clear and present danger to press and media freedom in the country which any true and patriotic Nigerian should resist. The price of freedom and democracy is eternal vigilance. The action against the TV station coming barely 24 hours after the national publicity secretary of the APC lampooned the media as being lazy and lacking in credibility should serve as a warning that the civil liberties and unfettered media space created by the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency are in danger of being eroded.”

Similarly, journalists who appeared on O and L late night Talk Show on AIT, described the incident as unfortunate. Gbenga Onoiga of the Nigerian Union of Journalist said that such action was undemocratic and must be guarded against, adding that he could not understand why Garba Shehu, spokesperson for the Buhari campaign, who was past president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors would let such happened.

Shehu was widely reported in the online media as confirming that AIT has been asked to step aside from covering Buhari citing security, ethical and family issues as reasons for the action.

It should be recalled that in his presentation at Chatam House in London during the political campaigns that, Buhari told the world that he had totally repented from his past dictatorial tendencies and that he would not subject Nigeria to any of his past undemocratic practices. But the recent action on AIT and NTA does not suggest so.

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