The House of Representatives Minority Caucus has described the alleged harassment of Channels Television and its staff as a toxic push against press freedom and citizens’ rights.

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission had issued a notice of infraction against the management of Channels Television over an interview granted by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on its news and current affairs programme, Sunrise Daily.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari.

The two presenters are Chamberlain Usoh and Kayode Okikiolu, the anchors of the programme.

Reacting to the development, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives in a statement by its Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, condemned the action of the NBC.

The lawmakers frowned at the growing clampdown on the media and the lack of neutrality on the part of the regulatory agency.

“The Minority caucus frowns at the growing clampdown on the media as well as the lack of professionalism and neutrality on the part of the regulatory agency under the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government.

“As lawmakers, we hold that rather than try to muffle the media, the broadcast regulator should have directed the television station to avail the Federal Government the opportunity to refute, with facts, the statements of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State during the Sunrise Daily programme, which it considered critical or misrepresentation of the government.

“The commandeering of Channels Television presenters to NBC’s headquarters in Abuja, the query of television outfit, and the unrelenting intimidation of independent broadcast media outfits by the NBC is most inauspicious.

“Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution is very clear that the security of lives and property is the primary purpose of government. The same Constitution also vests all the security agencies and legitimate instruments of coercion solely in the Federal Government.

“Therefore, when criminal cartels freely prowl and plunder the citizens, with the Federal Government showing manifest failure to step up to discharge its constitutional obligations, why should any reasonable government try to muffle the media in their constitutional role in the collective effort to salvage the situation, including the carnage going on in Benue State?

“The Minority caucus points the Federal Government to the call by the Governor of Mr. President’s home state, Hon. Bello Masari, on people of Katsina State to defend themselves, and wonders how such is different from the attempt by Governor Ortom to hold the Federal Government to account on the failure to check the killings in his state. Both confirms the total breakdown of security in the land.

“Our caucus insists that when bloody bandits and terrorists find their ways into an elite military training institution like the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), it presupposes nothing else but a brutal violation of our sovereignty and an unedited collapse of government and security.

“In that regard, the Federal Government should take steps to reassure the people rather than trying to muffle information. As representative of the people, the Minority caucus reminds the NBC the need to stick to professionalism and patriotism in the discharge of duties, urges the Federal Government to desist from engaging in activities that give the citizens the impression that it is always trying to cover up facts.

“The NBC should not promote the suppression of the truth. It should bear in mind that there cannot be any NBC without a Nigeria. It is also high time the NBC eschews partisanship and also understand that regulation does not presuppose the suppression of truth, but the promotion of it.”

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