The Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N) Campaign Thursday expressed concern over reports of an imminent federal government clampdown on the media, warning that such a move would put the democratic process and the Nigeria general elections in jeopardy.
A release signed by Edetaen Ojo of Media Rights Agenda says the Campaign was reacting to media reports of a military meeting held in Kaduna on Tuesday where a plan to clamp down on some media organizations perceived to be unfriendly towards the federal government and too critical was allegedly hatched.
“The media organizations reportedly penned down for government action, including the arrest of their top management personnel, include the Punch newspaper, The Nation newspaper, and Channels Television,” it says.
“The Campaign said it was worried about the federal government’s increasing intolerance of any criticism of its actions or policies which had resulted in a clear pattern of branding anyone expressing such criticism as an enemy.
“It also expressed concern over the excessive militarization of the country, creating a climate of fear and tension.
“The S.I.N campaign coordinator, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said ‘it is a sad development that the federal government now considers anyone or group critical of its action as an enemy of state that must be silenced by any means. This is completely antithetical to the culture of multi-party democracy where the main features are robust public debates and even virulent criticisms of government policies and actions, most of which are expressed through the media.’
“He noted that as vehicles and platforms for democratic debates and the expression of competing ideas, any repression of the media would constitute a direct attack on the democratic process and would automatically rob the electoral process of one of its most enduring characteristics.
“The campaign reminded the federal government that the media have been tasked by the Nigerian Constitution with holding the ‘government accountable to the people’ and that the government should not become an impediment to the media’s ability and freedom to play this role.
“It called on all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to abandon the plot as it would further damage Nigeria’s image and credibility before the international community.
“Prof. Owasanoye said: ‘Whatever happens, this government must not interfere with the independence of the media or its operations; the media must be given a free hand to operate in an atmosphere devoid of fear and intimidation.’”
Edetaen Ojo could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org