NIGERIA: Shutdown Of Broadcast Stations, Threat To Democracy —Editors

Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle

The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has expressed concern over the shutdown of four broadcast stations by Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle and asked him to immediately unseal the media houses.

Stations sealed by the governor include NTA, Gamji Television, Alumna Television and Pride FM Station, all located in the state capital, Gusau.

Zamfara State government had on Saturday, shut the stations, for covering a rally held by the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr Dauda Lawan Dare.

The government claimed the rally was organised, despite a ban on campaigns by the state government over alleged security situation in the state.

But in a statement issued yesterday, and signed he NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the umbrella body of all the editors in Nigeria described the action as illegal and a violation of the Nigeria constitution and other international instruments.

The guild stated that the only government agency charged with the constitutional mandate of regulating the broadcast stations or determining any infraction in the conduct of broadcasting industry was the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.

‘’While the NGE doesn’t even wan’t to go into the illegality of the ban on political activities in that state, our primary concern here is the unlawful and unconstitutional action of the state governor against the affected stations for carrying out their constitutional and social obligations – of reporting events and keeping the citizens informed of political developments in the state.

‘’In fact, the shut stations would have been accused of unprofessional misconduct if they didn’t cover that rally. We are also encouraged by the fact that the regulatory agency of broadcasting, the NBC, has also condemned the unlawful action of Governor Bello Matawalle,’’ the NGE added.

Condemning the action of the governor in its entirety, the editors said his action was a serious threat to the democratic process and democracy, describing it as a precarious signal to what awaited the media, ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The NGE stated further: ‘’The media reserves the right to cover all events, whether or not they are banned. No state government reserves the right to shut down any media house, in spite of their perceived infractions.

‘’In this case, the Zamfara State governor should have written a petition to the NBC, if at all the affected stations committed any infraction, instead resorting to self-help.

‘’The Guild stands for press freedom and freedom of expression and will always speak out against any attempt to muzzle the media.’’

The editors explained that the human right most closely related to the media was undoubtedly the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

It noted that freedom of expression, as upheld in the constitution and human rights instruments, covered the right to receive or impart information.

Describing the media as ‘’oxygen of democracy’’, the NGE reiterated its earlier position that the media was not an opponent of any government; but a professional institution charged with the constitutional obligation of monitoring the activities of the government and holding it accountable to the citizens.