AIT free to cover Buhari’s activities, says APC
• PDP, group raise the alarm over press freedom • IGP orders tight security at media house • Stakeholders meet tomorrow on safety of journalists
ALL Progressives Congress (APC) has said that accredited media organisations in the country, including African Independent Television (AIT), are free to cover the activities of the President-elect, Major- Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
The barring of AIT, announced on Monday, had drawn the ire of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), human rights lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa as well as the South-South Pen Pushers (SSPP).
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said 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. It, 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.
Describing the ban as unacceptable, the PDP, through it’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh in a statement on Tuesday said “after carefully studying the defence 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.”
He said: “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.
“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.”
On his part, Adegboruwa said barring AIT is 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 cannot 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.
“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.
“In his presentation at Chatam House in London, Buhari specifically gave an express undertaking to the whole 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. Yet he has now taken us back to his 1984 years of dictatorship.
“If Buhari has issues with any news item aired by AIT, the option open to him in a democratic dispensation, that he openly declared to defend, is to approach the court to vindicate himself.
It will be too bad for Nigeria, if the President-elect has harboured any form of revenge and unforgiving spirit, from the presidential campaigns and he is using such to deal with the people of Nigeria.
“The APC and the President-elect are duty bound to respect their campaign promises and indeed the Constitution and other laws of Nigeria,” he stated, urging Buhari to rescind his decision immediately by opening his activities to the AIT crew. The SSP, in its reaction in Abuja yesterday, described the action of the president-elect as unfortunate, vindictive and a clear sign that the APC-led Federal Government will be intolerant to press freedom and the media.
According to the statement signed by Publicity Director of the SSPP, Inusa Sule, the president-elect and the APC were 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 statement reads: “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.”
In another development, Acting Inspector General of Police (Ag. IGP) Solomon Arase has ordered the immediate reinforcement of security around all media houses in the country.
In a statement issued by the Force Public Relations Officer Acting Commissioner of Police (Ag. CP) Emmanuel Ojukwu, Arase “ordered water-tight security around media houses nationwide” to prevent any attack from disgruntled elements in the society.
The statement reads in part that the Police high command is “concerned about the recent attacks on media houses and journalist.” A community radio station, TAO FM, in Okene, Kogi state was attacked by some assailants leading to the death of four people, late Monday night.