By Emmanuel Elebeke
Reporters of Africa Independent Television, AIT were on Thursday blocked by agents of government from covering President Mohammadu Buhari’s unveiling of the 2020-2025 broadband plan by President Muhammad Buhari.
Vanguard gathered that the AIT crew were sighted leaving the venue of the event after they were asked to leave the venue of the ceremony by senior staff of the organizer of the event, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
Narrating their ordeal, the AIT reporter, Roluke Ogundele, who was accosted by this reporter, said, ‘We arrived the digital economy complex, venue of the event in Jabi district of Abuja early to set up in line with standard protocols ahead of the arrival of President Muhammad Buhari but while we were awaiting the arrival of the president, a deputy director in the Nigerian communications commission, NCC, approached me to notify that AIT has been restricted from covering the event and the crew should pack their equipment and leave the venue immediately.’’
‘‘The deputy director said the instruction applies to ait and one of the national newspapers, stating that no media representative of the two organisations should be seen at the venue.’’
According to her, while other television stations were paid for the live broadcast and coverage of the event, AIT crew was deployed to cover the event without any commercial interest, but strictly on the news value content of the event.
‘’Since the current administration assumed office in 2015, ait has provided consistent coverage of activities of the national communications commission NCC and the ministry of communications and digital economy without any misunderstanding or complaints.
‘‘The official in the NCC who told us to leave has also had a good working relationship with the broadcaster, and conveyed the directive with apologies saying he was merely following instructions. No reason was given for the action taken against ait apart from the statement that it was “a directive from above,” she said.
Though other major electronic media stations and representatives of the various print media were allowed in, it was also gathered that Punch Newspaper was equally barred from covering the event. But our findings showed that Punch was not really barred to cover the ceremony.
It will be recalled that the AIT is part of the DAAR Group that has been having a running battle with the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC which had on some occasions closed down the station for alleged violation of broadcast code.
Observers are of the view that the baring of AIT on Thursday was not unconnected to the ongoing feud between the TV station and the handlers of the present federal government.