The Association of Nigerian Journalists in the United Kingdom (ANJUK), has strongly condemned the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)-an arm of the Federal Government- for its “ill-informed and unconstitutional decision” to suspend the broadcasting licence of Daar Communication owners of the African International Television (AIT) and Raypower radio.
ANJUK said that the action smacked of vindictiveness, high-handedness and attempt to gag or muzzle the independent media which the government of the day is not comfortable with.
A statement issued in London by ANJUK chairman, Mr Chukwudi Nwabuko lamented that the NBC leadership over-reached itself by handing down the order to suspend the broadcaster adding “the action of the NBC is not only illegal, over reaching, abuse of power and a flagrant abuse of the 1999 constitution but also an abridgement of the freedom of expression and free speech enshrined in the 1999 constitution.
ANJUK said it was of the opinion that AIT and Raypower owned by a PDP card carrying member, High chief Raymond Dokpesi was targeted because he was of the opposition party and the fact that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari may be out to silence voices of opposition or those who do not agree with him.
Describing this as a dangerous trend in the aftermath of the second term of President Buhari, Nwabuko said that the onslaught against the media was deliberate and signposts that the government plans to wage war against free speech and dissenting voices.
“The suspension is illegal and a pointer to what the NEXT LEVEL holds for the generality of Nigerians. They started with the judiciary by coming up with fake news of corruption and now they have targeted the free press. Nigerians should not just keep quiet and watch this country relapse into a dictatorship. Nigeria is a democracy and all views should be accommodated and allowed to flourish. The era of closing media houses is in the past and should not be re-enacted under whatever guise,” the statement added.
On the issue of partisanship which NBC accused AIT of, the statement berated the commission for levelling the accusation and wondered what could be said of the NTA “which shows brazen partisanship in favour of the government in power through its reportage of the ruling party without airing the opposing views.”
“In a democracy, no one is beyond criticism. Section 22 of the Nigerian constitution enjoins the media to hold the government accountable to the people. In carrying out this constitutional responsibility media practitioners are bound to step on toes and we have enough laws in our statutes book to check the abuse of this power and one of them is not the suspension or closure of these media houses. The courts exist to adjudicate between and among the institutions of democracy when any party feels the other is overstepping its bounds. Therefore hounding down and shutting media houses is anathema to democratic ethos,” Nwabuko stated