John Alechenu and Olusola Fabiyi
The All Progressives Congress on Tuesday upturned the ban placed on the Africa Independent Television by the security team of President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s team had on Monday placed a ban on the media crew of the AIT, citing security concerns as well as ethical issues.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement in Abuja, said all accredited media organisations, “including AIT,” are free to cover the President-elect’s activities.
The APC said the incoming Buhari administration would not discriminate against any media organisation irrespective of its role during electioneering.
The party however enjoined all media organisations to observe the highest level of professional standards in carrying out their duties.
The party said, “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 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.”
The Buhari team had asked the AIT crew to steer clear of the President-elects’ events until issues relating to its alleged unethical conduct in the run up to the general elections had been resolved.
The action had also attracted reactions with many citizens taking to the social media to condemn the ban on the privately-owned television station.
Mr. Richard Akinnola, a veteran journalist and social critic, asked Buhari to “immediately rescind the directive barring AIT from covering your activities.”
Akinnola argued that while AIT might have acted unprofessionally during the campaigns, “it is very wrong to bar them from covering activities.”
“Though you have not been sworn-in, you are no longer a private citizen and every media house has the constitutional duty to report the activities of the President-elect. If you have any security or ethical concerns, please direct them to the relevant bodies,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday described the ban on the television station from covering the activities of Buhari as unacceptable.
The PDP said the ban was a sign of danger for the nation’s democracy.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said 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 have 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 be 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 his party was not oblivious of the background of the President-elect, especially as it relates to the freedom of the media, but that he thought that having declared to be a converted democrat Buhari would make himself amenable to the basic principles of democracy by following the due process of the law on any circumstance.
He added that the retired general might also wish to be reminded that the Nigerian Constitution, based on which he emerged as President-elect, also gave the media powers to cover activities of public office holders while at the same time providing legal avenues for redress in the event of any violation.
He said, “If the right of the President-elect was in anyway violated by the AIT or any media house for that matter, he is expected to act within the law and seek redress in the courts, otherwise one would have no option than to conclude that he is out for personal vendetta.
“The APC and the President-elect may have one or two lessons to pick from President Goodluck Jonathan, who though the most-maligned and abused President in the history of our nation, even by the APC, allowed his actions to be sufficiently guided by humility, tolerance and the rule of law”.
Metuh called on Nigerians not to despair but to remain steadfast and unite in resisting any anti-democratic tendencies intended to instil fear in them and set the stage for a dictatorial order and the erosion of their personal freedom and liberty as citizens.
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