The Directorate of State Services (DSS) has barred journalists from major newspaper houses in the country from covering the renewed trial of the leader of the Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
The secret police accredited only 10 journalists to cover the trial, while refusing to allow any other journalists near the court proceedings.
A memo titled ‘Media Accreditation For Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial’ seen by Ripples Nigeria on Monday, showed that major media houses like the Punch, Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Sun, Daily Trust and Tribune among others, were barred from covering the event.
However, among media houses approved by the DSS were the ThisDay, The Nation, Daily Independent, The Herald, and broadcasting stations like National Television Authority (NTA), Television Continental (TVC), African Independent Television (AIT), and Channels Television.
Though the DSS did not give reasons for barring the media houses from covering Kanu’s trial, some media experts and lawyers believe it could be part of the gagging of the press by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration which seems bent on censoring the media, especially those they believe have been harsh in criticising the regime.
Comdemning the DSS decision, fiery lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said the position of the law was that every trial should be carried out in public and everyone entitled to watch the proceedings.
The legal practitioner in a post of his Facebook wall, said “Our legal system does not admit secret trials. We are not a country of witches and wizards operating in a coven.
“For a trial to be free and fair, Section 36 of the Constitution says it must be carried out openly and publicly.
“Banning some media houses from covering Nnamdi Kanu’s trial is not only a sin against Section 36 of the Constitution, it also violently offends the provision of Section 22 of the same Constitution which gives the media the right and responsibility to ensure that the provisions of Chapter Two of the constitution dealing with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy are upheld and that the government is held accountable to the people of Nigeria.”
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Remi Olatubora, said preventing media organisations from performing their constitutional duty runs contrary to the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Chapter Four of the Nigerian Constitution.
Also expressing his dismay at the DSS action, a media expert, Tobiloba Fatai, told Ripples Nigeria that the action was a prelude to widespread gagging of the media.
“I am not the least surprised by excluding media houses that have have been consistent in criticising Buhari and his administration.
“Don’t forget that the likes of Punch have been hitting this government real hard. Remember their vow to be addressing Buhari as a retired Major General? They have stuck to that vow and the Presidency is definitely not happy with that and this is surely their pay back time. This is the prelude to a proper media gag by the Buhari-led administration.”
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