*PDP tells FG, NBC to stop harassing Nigerian press

By Levinus Nwabughiogu,  Dirisu Yakubu

Operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday, released Channels Television anchors, Chamberlain Usoh and Kayode Okikiolu after quizzing them over an interview they had with Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom on Thursday.

The duo were invited for questioning following a petition submitted to the service by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.

Vanguard gathered that the no holds barred interview they had with a retired Navy Commodore, Kunle Olawunmi also elicited complaints by the NBC, given the weight of Olawunmi’s allegations.

The intelligence officer had claimed that President Buhari’s government appeared to lack the political will to fight insurgency, adding Boko Haram suspects once named some people as sponsors and that some of the sponsors they named have become governors, lawmakers and some serving in government. It was a live interview.

It was learned that the journalists were asked to pledge in writing never to allow a repeat of such broadcast; a demand they dismissed, insisting that they were just doing their job professionally.

They further stated that as employees of an independent television station, they were not bound to make such commitment on behalf of Channels Television.

It would be recalled that Governor Ortom had earlier in the week as guest on Sunrise Daily, stated among other things that “Mr. President is pushing me to think that what they say about him, that he has a hidden agenda in this country is true because it is very clear that he wants to Fulanize but he is not the first Fulani President.”

The presidency swiftly reacted labeled Ortom as a man of few political principles.

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP caucus in the House of Representatives has asked the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to stop harassing   Channels Television or any other print or electronic media platform in Nigeria.

The caucus said that such harassment violates the provisions of Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and, by extension, Press freedom.

The caucus’s demand came on the heels of a recent interview granted to Channels TV by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State which the Presidency found offensive, inciting and divisive.

It will be recalled that the broadcasting regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC has since picked holes in the interview, saying it went against the broadcasting codes and ethics for which it queried Channels TV.

The PDP caucus in a statement signed by its Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda yesterday said the development was unhealthy for democracy in Nigeria.

The Statement read in full: “Our attention has been drawn to reports that the National Broadcasting  Commission (NBC) on  August 24, 2021 issued a so-called notice of infraction  against Channels Television on the basis of a television interview granted to  Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, during the programme, “Sunrise Daily” held on the same day.

“The said notice is supposedly predicated on the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and alleges, amongst other things, that the programme contained “inciting, divisive and unfair comments which were not thoroughly interrogated by the  anchors,” contrary to the Broadcasting Code.

“In the said notice, Channels TV was ordered to respond within 24 hours as to why sanctions should not be meted to it.

“We are also monitoring widespread reports that members of Staff of Channels Television have been invited to the office of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) for interrogation in connection with their handling of the programme.

“We must first register our deep concern that whilst the nation drifts into a near Hobbesian state amidst the raging insecurity currently engulfing the nation, the daily carnage experienced across Benue and Plateau States and elsewhere in the country, kidnappings of innocent citizens including school children, to the unprecedented violent attack on the National Defence Academy—one of the most hallowed symbols of Nigeria’s ‘sovereignty.

“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is preoccupied with hounding perceived enemies of the administration and stifling the press, acts which are antithetical to democratic ethos.

“Certainly, there are more pressing issues demanding statecraft and leadership than the hounding of journalists and repression of the media merely on account of interviews granted by opposition figures.

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