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Tinubu Sour Media Freedom Records




President Bola Tinubu’s one year in office is a mix of pain and relief for the media and journalists. We have seen a leader who opened a smiling face for the media as an industry and yet brandished hard knuckles for a number of media practitioners.

Tinubu met media owners and operators in December 2023, listened sympathetically to their tales of woe (especially astronomically rising costs) crippling the Fourth Estate of the Republic, and promised not to allow the media die.

He plans to make good his promise by authorising a single-digit loan package for interested media houses. According to the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, the loan will be administered by the Bank of Industry (BOI).

However, perhaps the more important aspect – media freedom within the limits of the law – took a lot of hits from operatives of the law under Tinubu, who chose the path of impunity rather than due process of the law.

During the past year, no less than ten journalists were arrested or “abducted” by the law enforcement agencies and kept in custody in ways that evoked the Abacha-era tactics of state actors. These included Segun Olatunji, former Editor of First News Newspaper and Daniel Ojukwu of Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ). The victims also included a host of online media practitioners, including a seasoned editor and online publisher, Madu Onuora, for alleged defamation of a US-based Reverend Sister. He was bundled from his Abuja home by police operatives from Enugu who came in two Toyota Siena buses.

Olatunji, for instance, was abducted from his home by people dressed in military uniforms. He was incarcerated in the custody of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and only released to media stakeholders after heavy pressures on government. Olatunji had reported alleged corrupt dealings by a top presidency official. Also, Ojukwu was held by the Police for alleged cybercrime violations.

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Sadly, Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris who is a publisher, claimed no journalist was incarcerated in the past year, an assertion that evoked the style of Lai Mohammed. Incidentally, President Tinubu is the owner of one of the largest multimedia networks in the country, which had survived four prior presidential tenures since 1999 without harassment.

Tinubu was also exiled as a result of late General Abacha’s intolerant and despotic reign which abrasively targeted the media. Many journalists and legal practitioners who fought military impunity are part of this administration. It is a great irony that such a regime has already chalked up an unenviable anti-media record in just one year.

Rough-handling the Nigerian media is a thankless job, and it always boomerangs. The constitution and our laws must always be followed in dealing with alleged erring journalists and media houses.

Impunity is unacceptable.

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