Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the expulsion of Arise Television cameraman from a campaign meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The cameraman was rejected from the meeting Tinubu had with the business community in Lagos on January 13, 2023.
MRA’s Programme Director, Mr Ayode Longeb in a statement on Monday in Lagos described the action of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PCC) as bizarre, highhanded and a violation of the rights of the media.
“The APC-PCC’s blatant disregard for the rights of a journalist performing a constitutionally-protected function even at a time when the party is seeking to persuade Nigerians to vote its candidate into the highest office in the land portends grave dangers for the media should that candidate prevail in the elections.
“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.
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“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,” the statement read in parts.
However, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the APC-PCC Director of Media and Publicity, 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”.