Michael Olugbode in Abuja
ActionAid Nigeria has said it is appalled by the recent actions taken by the Rivers State Government to “unlawfully” shut down the operations of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM in Port Harcourt.
A statement on Monday signed by the Country Director of Organisation, Andrew Mamedu, said: “This unjust and draconian move made by telecommunications engineers hired by Rivers State Government and accompanied by armed security operatives, is a blatant violation of Media Freedom and Violation of Legal Processes.”
Mamedu explained that the Rivers State Government’s actions as reported, include dismantling the broadcasting infrastructure, disconnecting the wave guard from the antenna on the mast, and even deploying bulldozers to demolish the Transmitter Complex at the DAAR Communications PLC Broadcast Centre in Port Harcourt, insisting that: “These actions not only constitute a severe breach of media rights but also jeopardise the livelihoods of countless individuals who depend on these media outlets for their daily sustenance.”
He said: “It is concerning that this assault on the media comes despite ongoing legal proceedings and presumably fruitful dialogue related to the land dispute between the state government and DAAR Communications, Plc. We call upon River State Government to follow due process, respect the rule of law and refrain from any further actions until all legal options and processes are fully explored.
“We emphasise the significance of preserving the jobs and welfare of approximately 80% of the workforce, who are from the Ozuoba community, with the continued shut down of the broadcasting platforms. AAN amplifies the plea for the preservation of these jobs and the welfare of the affected families.
“Furthermore, we urge the Rivers State Government to engage in constructive dialogue with Daar Communications PLC and all relevant stakeholders to seek an amicable resolution to this dispute. It is essential to find a solution that respects the rights of all parties involved and upholds the principles of justice and fairness. Media freedom is a cornerstone of any democracy, and actions that undermine it have far-reaching consequences for the public’s right to information and the functioning of a vibrant civil society. We call on the Rivers State Government to reconsider its actions and uphold the values of transparency, respect for the rule of law and freedom of the press.”
He said ActionAid Nigeria also demands the immediate and resolute action from the Inspector General of Police (IG) to intervene, investigate and put an end to the blatant violation of media freedom by the Rivers State Government, adding that it is crucial to send a strong message that such violations of legal processes and media freedom will no longer be tolerated in the country’s democratic nation.
Mamedu stated further that with the emergence of a new administration and the recently released presidential eight-point agenda, which includes improved security, a fair playing field and upholding the rule of law, one would expect that it will no longer be business as usual.
He said the Rivers State Government should be informed that civil society organisations and citizens will resist any attempt to assault media freedom and violate legal processes concerning the press.
“ActionAid stands in solidarity with DAAR Communications at this difficult period and all media organisations in Nigeria, advocating for their right to operate freely and without undue interference. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and call for justice and accountability,” he stated.