September 29, 2023

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SERAP gives Tinubu 48 hours to reverse ban on some media houses from covering presidential villa

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu to use his “good offices and leadership position to immediately reverse the unlawful ban on 25 journalists and media houses from covering the presidential villa and restore the accreditations of those affected.”

SERAP urged him “to publicly instruct the officials in the presidential villa to allow journalists and media houses to freely do their job and discharge their constitutional duty of holding those in power to account.”

According to reports, the Federal Government recently withdrew the accreditations of some 25 journalists from covering activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The banned journalists include those from the Galaxy TV; Ben TV; MITV; ITV Abuja; PromptNews; ONTV, and Liberty.

In the letter dated 26 August 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Barring these journalists and media houses from covering the presidential villa is to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate constitutional responsibility.”

SERAP said, “Your administration cannot with one broad stroke ban journalists from covering public functions. Citizens’ access to information and participation would mean little if journalists and media houses are denied access to the seat of government.”

According to SERAP, “Media freedom is a cornerstone of Nigeria’s democracy and journalists must be able to hold the government to account. This is a matter of public interest. The government cannot cherry-pick journalists to cover its activities.”

The letter, read in part: “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“Nigerians may consider the expulsion of the journalists from the presidential villa as your government’s ambivalence towards media freedom, and citizens’ rights of access to information and participation in their own government.”

“The legal obligations imposed on your government to ensure and uphold media freedom and human rights, and facilitate public access to the presidential villa as a public trust outweigh any purported ‘security concerns and overcrowding of the press gallery area.’”

“Media freedom, access to information and citizens’ participation in the affairs of their own government are the sine qua non of a democratic and rule of law-based society.”

“The withdrawal of the accreditation tags of these journalists directly violates media freedom and human rights including access to information and the right to participation. It would have a significant chilling effect on newsgathering and reporting functions, and may lead to self-censorship.”

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