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...Anger trails clampdown on AIT

Posted by SINA FADARE, OLATUBOSUN SOWEMIMO, Lagos and MALACHY UZENDU, Abuja on 2006/05/17 | Views: 290 |

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...Anger trails clampdown on AIT


CONDEMNATIONS, yesterday trailed the raid on Sunday of African Independent Television (AIT) where tapes on the anti-third term campaign were carted away by security agents.

CONDEMNATIONS, yesterday trailed the raid on Sunday of African Independent Television (AIT) where tapes on the anti-third term campaign were carted away by security agents.

The condemnation came as operatives of State Security Service (SSS) yesterday interrogated the Chairman of Daar Communication Limited, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, the chief promoter of AIT.

Pan Yoruba Socio-Cultural Organisation, Afenifere, flayed the clampdown and described as "barbaric and violation of the broadcasting rights of the media house and those of its viewers."

Similarly, erudite Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) carpeted government for the raid.

Afenifere in a statement issued yesterday in, Lagos by its national publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin noted that such barbaric action was a violation of the broadcasting house rights and its viewers to be informed on current happening in the country.

According to the statement, what government had demonstrated ‘smacks of the highest level of intolerance’ adding that "were it not that the regime is jittery that its back is already to the walls, there is no rational explanation for this maniacal show."

The group pointed out that continuous infringement on the fundamental rights of media houses in the country will not augur well for the on-going democratic experiment.

They therefore charged the media to be forthright, more aggressive and daring in their daily activities so that whatever that happened at the corridor of power that are not in the interest of the common man should be blown to the whole world so that democracy can survive.

Chief Fawehinmi described the government’s action as unconstitutional and violation of the press freedom under section 30 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Fawehinmi, in a statement, made available to Daily Champion said "There is no justification for what the Federal Government has done, the government should be aware of the constitutional duty imposed on the press under section 22 of the constitution."

He added, that the action was a total disregard to the constitution the president swore to preserve. He therefore called on the civil society and human rights groups to condemn the clamp down describing the seizure of tapes as flagrant denial of the citizenry their right to be informed.

In his reaction, Executive Director of the Society for Defence of Journalists Rights (SDJR), Mr. Abu Sumainah, described the raid as "undemocratic, unconstitutional and barbaric."

Sumainah noted that it is disheartening that the President who was saved from the noose of hangmen, prior to 1999, by media, could turn around to witch hunt media organisations.

He called on media men to continue to discharge their duties without fear of intimidation.

He said, it is rather tragic that the president, who was saved from the noose of hang man by the media and Civil Society Organisations who rose to protest his death sentence by the late Sani Abacha’s administration, could resort to barbaric onslaught on the right of the Nigerian people.

SDJR said, in a text read by Sumaina, that it is rather surprised that rather than commending the broadcast station for a well done job to encourage future challenges, the SSS had allowed itself to be used in a premature way.

"We therefore make bold to say the action of the SSS on AIT is not only capable of exposing Nigeria to ridicule among civilized nations in the world, it has again brought forth uncultured, uncivilised and undemocratic attitude of some elements of the Nigerian security arrangement" it read.

It enjoined journalists in both prints and broadcast electronics media in the country to remain unshaken and be committed irrevocably to the discharge of their duties without fear of hinderance, molestation or attack. It added that any attempt to emasculate the broadcast media and deprive the people of Nigeria of their fundamental rights of access to information is a breach of Human Rights as well as International convenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In his contribution, chairman of the Ikeja division of Judiciary Correspondents, Mr. Mustapha Ogunsakin, said the media has done a tremendous job especially since the clamour for tenure elongation began.

He said it is rather unfortunate that some uncomfortable people could stoop so low to attack and distrupt the operation of AIT.

He called on journalists to be bold and stand up to their constitutional responsibility and duties as they are usually the targets (scape goats) especially in a dictatorship era.

Also at the conference, Mr. Kayode Ketefe of The Punch Newspapers condemned the attack saying it is reprehensible and unfair as the right of the people to know is being infringed by the act. He noted that the media is the fourth realm of the government and is well recognised by the constitution.


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