The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to overturn the ban of 25 media outfits from Aso Rock.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday, August 27, 2023.
The socio-economic group was reacting to the withdrawal of 25 journalists’ accreditation from covering the activities of the President.
According to the group, the ban include those from the Vanguard, Galaxy TV, Ben TV, MITV, ITV Abuja, PromptNews, ONTV, and Liberty.
SERAP urged Tinubu to publicly instruct officials at the Presidential Villa to reverse the ban.
In the letter dated 26 August 2023, 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.”
“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.
“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 further read, “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.”
“According to our information, your administration on 18 August 2023 withdrew the accreditation tags of some 25 journalists and media houses from covering activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.”
“The banned journalists reportedly include those from Vanguard newspaper; Galaxy TV; Ben TV; MITV; ITV Abuja; PromptNews, ONTV, and Liberty. Other media personnel affected by the withdrawal are mostly reporters and cameramen from broadcast, print, and online media outlets.”
“The affected journalists were simply told at the main gate of the presidential villa to submit their accreditation tags.”
“SERAP is concerned that the withdrawal of the accreditations of 25 journalists covering the presidential villa is a grave violation of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.”
“SERAP also urges you to take meaningful and effective steps to ensure respect for the rights to media freedom, access to information and citizens’ right to participate in their own government.”