By Olusegun Olanrewaju
Transparency group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged President Bola Tinubu to immediately reverse the unlawful banning of 25 journalists and media houses from covering the Presidential Villa and restore the accreditations of those affected.
It urged the President “to publicly instruct the officials in the presidential villa to allow journalists and media houses to freely do their job and discharge their constitutional duty of holding those in power to account.”
Last Wednesday, the presidency ordered security agencies to withdraw the accreditations of 25 journalists covering the Presidential Villa or Aso Villa.
It was gathered that the journalists were shocked when the security operatives stationed at the main gate of the villa told them to submit their accreditation tags.
The security operatives did not give any reason or explanation for the withdrawal of the tags.
The banned journalists include those from Vanguard, Galaxy TV, Ben TV, MITV, ITV Abuja, PromptNews, ONTV, and Liberty.
In the letter dated 26 August 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Barring these journalists and media houses from covering the presidential villa is to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate constitutional responsibility.”
SERAP added that the Tinubu administration “cannot with one broad stroke ban journalists from covering public functions”.
“Citizens’ access to information and participation would mean little if journalists and media houses are denied access to the seat of government,” the organisation said.
The letter reads in part, “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“Nigerians may consider the expulsion of the journalists from the presidential villa as your government’s ambivalence towards media freedom, and citizens’ rights of access to information and participation in their government.
“The legal obligations imposed on your government to ensure and uphold media freedom and human rights, and facilitate public access to the presidential villa as a public trust outweigh any purported ‘security concerns and overcrowding of the press gallery area.’
“Media freedom, access to information, and citizens’ participation in the affairs of their government are the sine qua non of a democratic and rule of law-based society.