International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria has condemned the recent closure of some media organisations in Zamfara State.
Recall, the state governor, Mohammed Bello Matawalle, on Saturday ordered the immediate shutdown of some public and private media organisations, for allegedly breaking “journalism laws”.
The IPI Nigeria however, described the order as reprehensible and unacceptable, therefore, asked the governor to reverse it.
The affected media houses included the federal government owned Radio Nigeria’s Pride FM in Gusau, and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Gusau. Others are Gamji Television, Vision FM, and Al Umma Television.
The state has been the hotbed of banditry, kidnappings and other criminalities. The state government had announced a suspension of political activities as part of new security measures over the incidence.
A statement signed by the state’s Commissioner of Information, Ibrahim Dosara said: “The Zamfara State Security Council has approved and ordered the closure of some media outlets in the state for breaking the laws of journalism”.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara, organised an event in Gusau, the state capital, which was covered by the media organisations. The coverage of the event by the affected media organisations thereby elicited the unwarranted action by the state government.
IPI Nigeria, in a statement signed by its President, Musikilu Mojeed, noteed that the Zamfara State government does not have the power to shut down media houses, and calls on the Zamfara State Police Commissioner not to enforce an illegal directive by the government.
The order by the state government clearly violates the 1999 Constitution as amended, and has no place in a civilised society like ours. It reminds Nigerians of the dark days of the military in Nigeria when media organisations were clamped down by various authoritarian regimes.
Shutting down media houses is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria.
If any media organisation has flouted any law, the only option opened to the Zamfara State government is to approach the court for redress. Resorting to self help as done by the Zamfara State government threatens the rule of law and could lead to anarchy.
By shutting down media houses the Zamfara State government has taken the law into its own hands. No entity, no matter how powerful, is allowed to take the law into its hands.
IPI Nigeria, therefore reiterates its demand for immediate withdrawal of all directives impeding freedom of expression in Zamfara State, and demands an apology from the state government for its obnoxious act.
IPI Nigeria also calls on federal authorities to direct the Zamfara State governor to comply with the dictates of the rule of law by immediately withdrawing the order for the shutting down of the media organisations, and henceforth desist from any such act.