MEDIA Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the harassment of an Arise Television cameraman at the campaign meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, with the Lagos business community on January 13, 2023.
The MRA, in a statement issued on Monday, January 23, by its Programme Director Ayode Longe, described the expulsion of the journalist from the meeting as “bizarre, high-handed and a violation of the rights of the media’.
According to the MRA, the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council’s (APC-PCC) blatant disregard for the rights of a journalist performing a constitutionally-protected function portends grave dangers for the media should that candidate prevail in the elections.
The APC-PCC Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, had claimed on Twitter that the Arise Television cameraman was caught clandestinely live streaming Bola Tinubu’s campaign event without authorization and accused him of being “on espionage mission”.
However, Longe expressed outrage at the allegation and the APC-PCC’s justification for its unconstitutional action, describing it as ridiculous and baffling.
He said: “What authorization does the journalist require to perform his professional duty of covering a political campaign event? How can a purely journalistic act by a cameraman from a television station filming a public political campaign event and beaming it live to a public audience be characterized as espionage? Should the cameraman have first made a public announcement that he is covering the event so as not to be accused of doing so clandestinely?
“We find this particularly bewildering because Mr. Onanuga, who issued the justification and made the accusation of espionage, spent a significant portion of his career as a professional journalist engaged in what came to be known as guerrilla journalism, for which he and the two media outlets, TheNews and Tempo magazines, where he served as an editor, were widely applauded, including by people like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It is the worst form of irony that he is now attempting to condemn a journalist engaged in his professional pursuit as having committed a capital offence.
“If this attitude is indicative of the vision of the party or its presidential candidate on the role of the media in the democratic process, then we shudder to think of what the future holds for journalists and the media community should this attitude and mentality be brought into the highest political office in Nigeria,” he added.
Longe noted that it is the duty of the media to scrutinize and hold accountable public office holders and institutions as well as public figures, including political parties and candidates seeking public office.
He stressed that the media has to ensure that members of the public have as much information as possible about the candidates seeking officer, their programmes and their track records, adding that the media cannot properly play their role in the electoral process if they are prevented from having access to public events which form part of the process.
According to him, anyone unwilling to be subjected to scrutiny by the media has no business seeking public office.
He further explained that it is contrary to the code of journalism practice in Nigeria and everywhere else in the world that institutions or individuals who are being held accountable should be the ones to determine the media organizations or journalists that are allowed to hold them to account.
While noting that journalists should be given the fullest access to all electoral events, he urged “the entire media community, regardless of the political sympathies that individual media professionals may have, to rise in unison to condemn the APC-PCC’s undemocratic action.”
Longe also called on the APC-PCC to publicly apologise to the cameraman and his media organization and make a public commitment not to repeat such action in future.