Tuesday, 28 April 2015

"Buhari's Restriction On AIT: Undemocratic, Unpresidential And Unacceptable"

By Solomon Tonye

My heart was filled with grief after reading the Vanguard Report titled "Hate campaign: Buhari fights back, bars AIT from covering his activities".

The question that stroke through my mind was "Can this be be justified in any sane democracy?".

It appears like Muhammadu Buhari is yet to come to terms with the present day democratic dispensation that he is bound to lead for the next for years or he is just acting naive. Perhaps the Daura-born General wants to bring back Decree 4 through the back door or he is out to fight any media organisation that he considers to be his adversary. Whatever be the case, Nigerians will not allow anyone to tamper with the freedom of media as provided by the 1999 Constitution.

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari need to be reminded that Sections 22 and 39 (1)(2) (quoted below) specifically made provision for Press Freedom.

Press Freedom In Nigeria's Constitution
Section 22 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution states that: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”

Section 39(1) States that "Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
Section 39(2) further went on to say "Without prejudice to the generality of subsection(1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinion."

Buhari Should Remember His Words on Press Freedom
At his interactive session with members of Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN) and Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) on March 17, 2015, he pledged to uphold Press Freedom and to be a friend of the Press. In his own words...

“Concerning the Decree 4 of 1984, I have to assure you that the time for that is over. That was part of military administration and dictatorship, but I have also promised you that I am now a converted, and converted democrat. Therefore, I want to assure you that I am going to be a friend of the media and this time, I will work well with you as friends and partners in the development of the nation, and that is my promise to you.”

“I want to give you my full assurances that in this democratic dispensation, I will ensure that the Nigerian Constitution is upheld. This includes respect for the media, respect for the right to free expression and freedom of speech. I have said elsewhere that I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. Dictatorship goes with military rule as do edicts such as Decree 4"

"...I will continue to promote the consolidation of democracy in our great country, Nigeria, by guaranteeing that the media’s freedom is not compromised in any way. I give you my full assurances that the Nigerian media will be free under our APC government.”.

The Unfortunate AIT Restriction
It is a unfortunate that President-elect Muhammadu Buhari that claimed to be a "reformed democrat" throughout the electioneering period will take the ignoble decision of preventing AIT from covering his activities even before taking oath of office. It is also unfortunate that the man that pledged to be a friend of the media will issue restricting order on a law abiding corporate citizen and a legally recognise media house. Buhari is expected to treat all members of the Media in the most appropriate manner. He should remember that the rights of the media as enshrined in the Constitution is not subject to change via Presidential desire. If he hasn't been told, he should be aware that his restriction on AIT is undemocratic and can never be tolerated in any sane democracy. If the President-elect has anything against AIT, he should seek redress in court. He may not like AIT as a media outfit but he should allow them conduct their duties unfettered as long as they operate within the ambit of the law.

Finally, let me remind President-elect Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians are looking up to him to fulfil his numerous electoral promises. We will not tolerate any form of impunity or "executive rascality" whether from him(as President) or from any officer of his incoming government.

God Bless Nigeria

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