The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), a United States foreign policy institution, has said that Nigerian press freedom is in danger under President Muhammadu Buhari.
In an article published on Thursday, CFR said that the endorsement of ‘Koo’, an Indian microblogging platform, shortly after banning Twitter proved the Nigerian government’s ongoing attempt to suppress free expression.
CFR also said that the extent of Buhari’s desire to suppress press freedom was recently revealed in a letter by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) mandating broadcast stations to downplay the worsening security situation in Nigeria, particularly the activities of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents.
“NBC justified their position by arguing that reporting these issues has a tendency to ignite more violence. This explanation might have merit if the government had not been progressively rolling back rights to free speech,” the article reads in part.
“For example, last October, after the # EndSARS protests against police brutality, NBC fined media organizations for reporting on the protests. Nigeria is ranked 120 on the World Press Freedom Index, a drop of five spots from its ranking in 2020.”
“Reporters Without Borders describes Nigeria as ‘one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists’, and the situation seems to be getting worse.”
CFR further said that the suppression of the Nigerian media seems to be a desperate attempt to keep Nigerians in the dark about how little the government has been able to deliver on its promises to curb insecurity.
“If the government succeeds in its latest attack on press freedom, there is no reason to think it will stop any time soon. With general elections two years away, laws and regulations that restrict the media could hinder reporting of electoral irregularities — particularly if they are perpetrated by the ruling party. “
Recalling Buhari’s 2015 inauguration speech, where he pledged to “consciously work the democratic system” by safeguarding free speech and guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, CFR charged him to fulfil his promises.
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