Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to intervene in the recent contentious ban on 25 journalists and media houses from accessing the presidential villa.
In a strongly-worded letter dated August 26, 2023, the the civil rights advocacy group pressed for an immediate reversal of the ban, emphasizing the importance of media freedom in a democratic society.
“We implore President Tinubu to use his leadership position to swiftly overturn the unlawful ban on journalists and media houses from covering the presidential villa.
“This ban hampers their constitutional duty of holding those in power accountable,” SERAP stated.
The group further urged the President to publicly instruct villa officials to allow journalists to perform their crucial role without hindrance.
The ban, which allegedly stems from concerns of overcrowding and security, has been met with considerable criticism.
Prominent media outlets including Galaxy TV, Ben TV, and MITV, among others, found themselves stripped of their accreditations.
SERAP argued that such measure impedes the essential function of media in a democracy, which is primarily to make the government transparent and accountable to the people.
SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, asserted that “Media freedom is a cornerstone of Nigeria’s democracy and journalists must be able to hold the government to account.” The organization’s letter contended that the government’s decision infringes upon media freedom, access to information, and citizens’ right to participate in the government.
Expressing concern over the ban’s potential impact, SERAP warned that “The withdrawal of the accreditation tags of these journalists would construct barriers between Nigerians and certain information about the operations of their government, something which they have a constitutional right to receive.”
While President Tinubu has been given a 48-hour window to respond, SERAP underlined its commitment to resorting to legal action if the ban persists. With media freedom and citizens’ rights at the heart of the matter, this incident underscores the delicate balance between security concerns and upholding democratic values.