In a swift reaction to the staggering news that the incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari, banned AIT, African Independent Television, from covering his activities due to the organisation’s hate campaign against him during the 2015 elections, Buhari’s party APC, All Progressives Congress has reversed the ban in favour of press freedom and this is good for democracy.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has also risen to the flipside of being the opposition by roundly condemning any act that gags the press. If APC is able to consistently weigh-in party strength over unilateral tendencies at critical times like this, post May 29, and a sworn in Buhari let’s reason prevail, Nigeria is well on to the socio-political change 15.4 million citizens voted for.
Below is a summary of THISDAY report of this development by Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja…
In a move aimed at limiting the damage caused by the ban imposed on African Independent Television (AIT) from covering the activities of President-elect Muhammadu Buhari by his media team, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has stated that all accredited media organisations in the country, including AIT, are free to cover the activities of the president-elect. Buhari came under harsh criticism when his media team on Monday banned a television crew from AIT from covering the visit by the Cuban envoy to him in Abuja, citing security and ethical standards raised by his family.
Several sections of the public saw the action as a throwback to Buhari’s military dictatorship in the 1980s when he gagged the press and threw journalists into prison. During his campaign for the presidency, Buhari refused to apologise for his promulgation of Decree 4, the draconian military law, which gave him the power to gag the press during his 20-month reign as military head of state.
But in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the incoming Buhari administration would not discriminate against any media organisation, irrespective of its role during the electioneering leading up to the recent polls. The party, however, enjoined all media organisations to observe the highest level of professional standards in carrying out their duties.
“There is a code of ethics guiding the practice of journalism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their 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 turn 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.
Despite APC’s reversal of the ban imposed on AIT, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday described as unacceptable the directive by the President-elect, to bar the television house from covering his activities, saying the suppression of the media under any guise portends danger for the nation’s democracy.
Also, a human rights group, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), strongly condemned Buhari’s action over the plan to resuscitate the anti-democratic ethos in a democratic setting, stating that his action had shown that the president-elect has a hidden agenda in governance of this country for the next four years.