Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has recently condemned the withdrawal of accreditation to some journalists and media houses covering the Nigerian Presidential Villa. The organisation which described the development as worrsome and despotic, also condemned the invasion of the African Independent Television and Ray Power FM stations in Rivers State by suspected agents of the state government on Sunday.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, on Tuesday, expressed shock and consternation that Tinubu whose reputation was largely enhanced because he is a media owner picked and chose media houses that will cover the State House.
In another development, SERAP also condemned the action by the government in an open letter insisting that the seating government cannot, with one broad stroke, ban journalists from covering public functions.
The civil society organisation therefore asked the FG to immediately restore the accreditations of those affected to allow them to freely do their jobs and discharge their constitutional duty of holding those in power to account.
in the letter dated August 26, 2023 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP argued that barring the journalists and media houses from covering the presidential villa is to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate constitutional responsibility.
The organisation maintained that citizens’ access to information and participation would mean little if journalists and media houses are denied access to the seat of government.
According to reports, the Federal Government recently withdrew the accreditation of some 25 journalists from covering activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The banned journalists include those from the Vanguard; Galaxy TV; Ben TV; MITV; ITV Abuja; PromptNews; ONTV, and Libert
They went further to lament that
“Media freedom is a cornerstone of Nigeria’s democracy and journalists must be able to hold the government to account. This is a matter of public interest. The government cannot cherry-pick journalists to cover its activities.”
They equally issued an ultimatum,
The ultimatum read, “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“Nigerians may consider the expulsion of the journalists from the presidential villa as the government’s ambivalence towards media freedom, and citizens’ rights of access to information and participation in their own government.”
“The withdrawal of the accreditation tags of these journalists directly violates media freedom and human rights including access to information and the right to participation. It would have a significant chilling effect on newsgathering and reporting functions, and may lead to self-censorship.”
“Media freedom, access to information and the right to participation are necessary for the maintenance of an open and accountable government. These freedoms are so fundamental in a democracy that they trump any vague grounds of ‘security concerns and overcrowding of the press gallery area.’”
“The effective exercise of media freedom, access to information and citizens’ right to participation in their government would preserve and contribute to a free and democratic society, something which is consistent with the constitutional oath of office to defend the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended.