Bullying of Journalists Covering Nigerian Presidency Disturbing

This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on June 15, 2017.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has observed with increasing dismay recent indignities meted out to journalists covering activities of Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

From the reception of the freed Chibok Girls and the expulsion of a reporter of The Punch newspaper from the State House, to the media blackout at the Air Force Base in Kaduna, the handlers of the president’s media protocols have shown a certain lack of regard for the press and its important complementary role in the governing process.

On April 24, Bashir Abubakar, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) attached to President Muhammadu Buhari, confiscated the accreditation tag of a reporter of The Punch newspaper, Lekan Adetayo and had the journalist marched out of the State House.

Before being thrown out, Adetayo was grilled by the CSO for about three hours and forced to write a detailed statement about earlier stories about the Presidency published by The Punch which the aides found to be uncomplimentary of the administration.

Although Special Advisor, Femi Adesina, later distanced the Presidency from the expulsion of the reporter, assuring that “President Buhari does not intend to muzzle the media in any way,” the sad treatment of journalists was repeated during the President’s reception of the freed Chibok Girls.

Acting on the official statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu that the President would receive the Chibok Girls at 4.00 pm on May 10, 2017, the press corps started arriving at the State House two hours ahead of time.

Eventually, the military buses carrying the girls arrived three hours later than announced without the anxious journalists being given any excuse. To complete an evening of discourtesy towards the media, the gates were clanked shut in the face of the teeming journalists, with only the reporter and the cameraman from the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) and the personal photographer to the President being allowed access to the meeting.

When the president arrived home on March 2017 from a 49-day medical leave in London, his aides disallowed any interaction between him and the eagerly awaiting reporters at the Kaduna Air Force base, who were left bemused.

The three incidents cited above occurred within a space of three months, and are, therefore, too frequent to be glossed over. It is regrettable that an institution as important as the media should be handled so coarsely by the Presidency. The MFWA, therefore, urges the authorities at the State House to take immediate steps to remedy this situation and restore dignity and mutual goodwill to the relationship between the Presidency and the media in Nigeria.