The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has expressed worry over what it called seeming attempt to stifle the freedom of the press by the current administration.
Leader of the caucus, Hon Kingsley Chinda, while reacting to the notice of infraction issued to Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over an interview granted to
the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, alleged that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was preoccupied with hounding perceived enemies of the administration and stifling the press.
He described the acts as antithetical to democratic ethos, despite the protracted security challenges facing the country.
He also noted that Twitter, the micro-blogging site, was suspended from operating in Nigeria since Friday June 4, 2021, on the allegation that it allowed its platform to be used “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” thereby cutting off tens of millions of citizens who engage the government and exercise their right to free speech using the platform.
“We must first register our deep concern that whilst the nation drifts into a near Hobbesian state amidst the raging insecurity currently engulfing the nation, the daily carnage experienced across Benue and Plateau States and elsewhere in the country, kidnappings of innocent citizens including school children, to the unprecedented violent attack on the
National Defence Academy- one of the most hallowed symbols of Nigeria’s sovereignty.
“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is preoccupied with hounding perceived enemies of the administration and stifling the press, acts which are antithetical to democratic ethos,” he said.
According to the statement, there are more pressing issues demanding statecraft and leadership than the hounding of journalists and repression of the media merely on account of interviews granted to opposition figures.
“Nigerians would recall that the legality of the Broadcasting
Code, invoked by the NBC against Channels Television, is still a matter of
contention before the Federal High Court, Abuja Division in Suit No.: FHC/
SUIT NO: FHC/ABJ/CS/1136/2020 between Rep. Kingsley Chinda & 8 Ors (for themselves and on behalf of the PDP Caucus House of Reps) v. Minister of Information & 2 Ors.
Convinced that the enactment of the 6th Amended Nigeria Broadcasting Code was an affront on the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and
the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, this Caucus approached the
Federal High Court for judicial pronouncements as to the legality or otherwise of the said Code and the validity of its application by the NBC. This matter is still pending before the Court.
“Parties have filed their submissions and the matter is further slated for Notwithstanding the pendency of the above matter, the NBC is unrelenting in its brazen application of the Broadcasting Code to stifle free speech and gag the print and electronic media across the Country.
“This no doubt is geared to protect the palpable inefficiencies of the present administration; intimidate dissenting voices and erode stardard democratic ethos,” he added.
The caucus also expressed worry over what it described as the rapid descent of the country into the sort of repression and despotism experienced before the nation’s return to democracy.
“The assault on press freedom has reached a crescendo under this administration. Little wonder that Nigeria has emerged as the most dangerous place in West Africa for journalists, according to a
survey released by global media advocacy organization, Reporters without Borders also known as Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) to mark the 2020 World Press Freedom Day,” he stated.