The All Progressives Congress, APC, has reversed the controversial decision taken by President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to bar the Africa Independent Television, AIT, from covering his activities.
The party said all accredited media organizations in the country, including the AIT, are free to cover the activities of the president elect.
AIT journalists were on Monday denied access to Mr. Buhari’s temporary office when they showed up to cover his official engagements.
His spokesperson, Garba Shehu, cited family and security concerns for the decision.
“AIT has been asked to stay aside based on security and family concerns. In addition, Buhari has decided that they will have to resolve some issues relating to issues of standard and ethics.
“We will be talking with them to try and resolve the matter, but for now the station has been asked to stay aside, because like I said there are some family and security concerns. They have been asked to step down their coverage until we resolve the matter with them on ethics and standard,” Mr. Shehu said.
However, the party in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said the incoming Buhari Administration would not discriminate against any media organization, irrespective of its role during the electioneering campaign leading up to the recent polls.
The statement however enjoined all media organizations to observe the highest level of professional standards in carrying out their duties.
”There is a Code of Ethics guiding the practice of journalism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their duties.
”There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organizations which have wantonly breached the Code of Ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organization from covering the activities of the President-elect,” the APC said.
A lot of Nigerians had condemned Mr. Buhari’s decision to bar the AIT from his activities.
Majority of those who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on the matter considered it an infringement on press freedom.
Some however view the decision as payback to AIT after they ran a series of documentaries maligning Mr. Buhari during the electioneering campaign prior to the election.
A UK-based activist and strong supporter of Mr. Buhari, Kayode Ogundamisi, described the decision as a “disappointing”.
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr. Ogundamisi said although it is understandable for the President-elect to feel aggrieved about the activities of AIT, there was no basis for Mr. Buhari to ostracize the television station.
“News of General Buhari barring AIT is disappointing, the decision should be reversed, whoever advised the General to bar the organisation does not wish him well,” Mr. Ogundamisi said.
Also, an Abuja based lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, in a telephone interview, told PREMIUM TIMES that the decision to bar AIT was strange.
He said Mr. Buhari promised Nigerians change and that if he felt his fundamental rights were infringed upon, there were a lot of channels open for him to seek redress.
He said Buhari should have approached the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission or even a competent court of law.
Mr. Mahmud also said Mr. Buhari would be taking off on a wrong footing by declaring a media war.
“I have not seen anywhere in the world where the government wins the war against a big media outfit. In the short term, the government will be successful, but once the government starts making mistakes, other media houses will be drawn into the war to support the media group being ostracised by the government,” he said.
Mr. Mahmud also faulted the decision of Mr. Buhari on the grounds of privacy, as the place of his present abode, the Defence House, is an official building that is owned by Nigerian taxpayers.
However, some Nigerians also said Mr. Buhari acted within his right to stop the AIT from covering his activities.
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, Bashir Yusuf said the change Nigerians voted for is a change from having things done on the basis of “business as usual”.
Writing on his twitter page, Mr, Yusuf said right to free speech stops where one’s right to privacy and safety starts.
“When people voted for change, were they told AIT and the media will be exempt? That business as usual can proceed in the name of free speech?
“In the US they have barred media organisations from covering the White House on ethical grounds. Now AIT is involved, the heavens is about to fall.
“I am of the view that AIT and NTA’s licences should have been revoked a long time ago. They have serially violated the Broadcasting Code.
“It’s a fallacy that because you have the money to set up a private TV station, you are a defender of free speech and can invade my privacy,” he said.
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