The Nigerian media spaces, on Monday, got a grip of themselves when they came together to run an advertorial in opposition to proposed laws to stifle press freedom. The advertorial was sponsored by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors and Newspaper Publishers Association of Nigeria and was launched in protest to the amendments for two acts–Nigerian Press Council and National Broadcasting acts.
This is very commendable especially given how much division has coloured the response of the civil society in growing despotism of the Buhari administration.
While other civil society groups have found a way to unite with the common goal of pushing back, the media section of the civic space has been found to do it alone, making them very easy picks for the federal government, often without support for the persecuted.
The muted response to the fine imposed on Nigeria Info FM and Channels Television under the new NBC code showed the divisions in the media space, and despite the existence of the bodies and unions, the Buhari administration has gotten away with several impunity.
The earliest sign of a break in the now ignoble norm came when Punch Newspaper published an editorial decrying the loss of civil liberties under the current regime and resolved to address the President with his military titles as “the President, Maj. Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) in their reports. This emboldened a couple other players in the media to push back, with limited successes.
For context, the fact that Nigeria under the current regime is now a dictatorship central is lost on no one but members of the current administration who are the ones formulating and implementing policies that stifle civil liberties. The most glaring example of the descent into a police state is the inability of Nigerians to gather peacefully to protest against the government. The use of force to repress protests have left bitter tastes in the mouths of many families who have lost loved ones in the state sanctioned violence.
The entirety of this whole repression of civil rights and liberties is represented by the loss of economic growth and reversal of growth achieved by years of hardwork.
Buhari’s knee-jerk reaction to the deletion of his offensive tweet by Twitter has plunged a lot of Nigerians into poverty, as people who’ve built businesses on social media are counting their loss owing to a decline in advertising services that even the resort to virtual private networks cannot mitigate.
Even worse, between 2015 and 2019, the Buhari administration was found to have violated no less than forty court orders, chief of which were the (then) decision to keep former national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El Zakzakky under detention.
Press freedom has eroded terribly. The information blackout is not even a thing that has to be sanctioned from the very top as members of the government are running their own fiefdoms in their various areas of operations. The information blackout in the theatre operations in the North East is a key example, the result of which is the absence of justice for people who have died at the hands of the state and its agents.
If this new found voice is going to stand, the Nigerian media space would need to find a common ideology, one that is rooted in the protection of the freedom of information act that was signed in 2011, show more resistance by refusing to let government vuvuzelas (especially Femi Adesina) from using their publications to spew lies and promote government actions that are contrary to constitutional provisions, and above all, commit to speaking truth to power, which would mean the abandonment of every impulse at self censorship that has been inculcated to avoid the ire of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.