The founder of Daar Communications PLC, operators of Africa Independent Television, AIT, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has stated that Monday’s decision by the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to bar the television station from covering his activities was an attempt by the former military ruler to reintroduce Decree 4.
Accordingly, Mr. Dokpesi said Mr. Buhari lacks the power to stop the AIT from covering his activities, as doing so would amount to breaking the law.
Mr. Buhari, as Head of State promulgated Decree 4, tagged Public Officers (Protection Against False Accusation) on March 29, 1984.
Under that “draconian” law, many journalists were arrested and jailed for authoring statements and reports that exposed the Buhari administration and/or its officials to ridicule or contempt.
Following the outcry that greeted Mr. Buhari’s decision Monday, his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Tuesday over-ruled him, saying all accredited media houses, including AIT, are free to report on his activities.
Speaking out on the saga in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday, Mr. Dokpesi, who is a card carrying member of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stated that the president-elect ought to be reminded that he cannot return Nigeria to the era of Decree 4.
“I am sure that the President-elect needs to be reminded of Decree 4, and he should be clearly reminded that section 32 of the constitution makes it mandatory for the media to hold public officials accountable to the people”, he said.
He also said Section 39 of the constitution equally grants Nigerians the freedom of expression and to hold opinion.
“The president-elect said that he does not want to be covered by AIT, but AIT has a responsibility to the Nigerian public to report the things that are happening”, he said.
“There are three national networks available for national coverage in Nigeria, the NTA, AIT and Silverbird. You cannot stop a foremost private station from reporting in Nigeria, it brings us back to Decree 4 era”.
Mr. Dokpesi also affirmed the speculation that the president-elect may have taken his decision based on what has been termed in some quarters as ‘hate’ documentaries ran by the station during the electioneering campaign.
In defense of AIT, Mr. Dokpesi said its parent company, Daar Communications, as a commercial entity, reserves the right to run anything it considers worthy of being televised. He said there is also a right of response available to anyone who feels strongly about any matter broadcast by the station.
“If they had produced their own documentary to say this is what we want and AIT did not publish it, then that is another matter”, he said.
“What is obviously very clear is the fact that AIT believes that the historical information about the President elect that were ran, were factually correct. Nothing was done to defame him or impinge on his character or integrity”.
He also added that another documentary about one of the national leaders of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, titled “Lion of Bourdillon”, were also factually correct.
The media proprietor said although the documentaries were produced outside of Daar communications, “We take responsibility for the running of these items and I as an individual is satisfied because due diligence was followed in ensuring that the things that are contained were factually right”.