The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, caucus in the House of Representatives has reacted to the notice of infraction against Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
The PDP caucus said it was registering with deep concern, the federal government’s preoccupation with hounding perceived enemies and stifling of the press, whilst the nation drifts into anarchy amid the raging insecurity.
A statement signed by Kingsley Chinda, leader of the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives called on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his mandate to defend and protect the Constitution by immediately directing all relevant organs of state to desist from any further harassment of Nigerians.
Recall that on Thursday, the NBC issued a Notice of Infraction against Channels Television on the basis of a television interview granted to the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, during the programme, Sunrise Daily.
The NBC had in the letter accused the TV station of having gone against its code and alleged amongst other things, that the programme contained inciting, divisive and unfair comments which were not thoroughly interrogated by the anchors”, contrary to the Broadcasting Code.
But the PDP members in the lower chamber said they were monitoring the widespread reports that members of Staff of Channels Television had been invited to the office of the DSS for interrogation in connection with the programme.
“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 statement said.
“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.
“Certainly, 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 by opposition figures.
“Furthermore, 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 for the purpose of stifling free speech and gagging 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 standard democratic ethos.
“We are not altogether unmindful of the role played by Channels Television in foisting the current administration on the country and in developing what is evidently a ‘Frankenstein monster’ through its overt bias in favour of the current ruling party before and during the 2015 elections and its well-acknowledged lopsided reportage of national events.
“The temptation to dismiss their current travails as an act of karmic justice may therefore be difficult to resist for the average Nigerian. Nonetheless, in our position as representatives of the people, we owe all Nigerians a duty to ensure we protect the democratic space with press freedom as a core pillar.
“We also owe a duty to ensure compliance with the rule of law, good governance, the preservation of law and order, fidelity to the principles of constitutionalism and the general adherence to democratic ethos and principles in public administration throughout the length and breadth of the Federation.
“As a Caucus, we must however express worry at 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.
“Similarly, Nigerians will note that Twitter, the micro-blogging site, was suspended from operating in Nigeria since Friday 4th June 2021, on the allegation that Twitter had 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.
“Nigerians are reminded that press freedom is a universal right and an integral component of democratic governance. Any attempt to shrink, constrict or otherwise take away this freedom must therefore be viewed by all well-meaning Nigerians as an attempt to undermine the nation’s democracy and to return the country to the dark days of despotic rule.
We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his mandate to defend and protect the Constitution by immediately directing all relevant organs of State to desist from any further harassment of Channels Television or any other print or electronic medial platform, as same violates the provisions of Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and, by extension, Press freedom.
“We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of any journalists arrested and/or detained by any law enforcement agency simply for exercising his/her journalistic license.
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