Have you ever wondered what happened to Naij.com – the popular online news platform? Buhari happened to it.
During the whirling of the IPOB turbulence, Naij.com published rare exclusive reports on Nnamdi Kanu. The reports were mostly free of affectations – not embellished, which is permissible in the practice of journalism. But the government found them offensive.
The reports unsettled the President Muhammadu Buhari government, which through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), shut down the online operation of the news platform in the interest of “national security”.
Naij.com had to mutate to Naija.ng to remain a business concern.
A popular columnist was effectively disengaged from an official assignment a night before the event for criticising the government’s branding of IPOB as a terrorist organisation. A few other writers have had their columns suspended by newspapers owing to threats by the government.
Even TheCable, a foremost online newspaper, has not been spared of attacks despite its unbiased and middle-ground approach to reporting. A few months ago, the website of the newspaper was hacked and shut down for a few days after it published a series of reports of corruption in the handling of the Abacha loot by the office of the attorney-general of the federation.
I strongly believe the Buhari government’s onslaught on the media is deliberate and targeted at crushing the last phalanx of check, and perhaps opposition.
The government has reduced the national assembly to a broken cymbal, and the PDP, which should naturally play the obverse role, is destitute of moral capacitance for opposition. With the media as the only institution of check, the government is desperate to extirpate it to garland its path to tyranny.
What could explain the recent tagging of newspapers (online and offline) dispassionately reporting the killings by herdsmen as “herds-media”? I believe this is an attempt to profile and stigmatise media houses doing the bounden duty of reporting objectively just like every public figure who opposes the government is tagged “looter” and “corrupt”.
An editor of a national newspaper told me that the government asked all media houses to stop tagging the killers in the north-central region as “Fulani herdsmen”, but as bandits. He said he asked them, “But these killers are Fulani and herdsmen? And the militants in the south-south are called Niger Delta militants?”
The editor said he was told the opposition would exploit the ethnicity of the killers to blackmail the president, and that it was in the interest of “national security”. This clearly reflects the thinking of the government – every issue is pickled in a political jar of sour sauce.
The media must not fall to the caprices, intimidation and harassment of the government. It survived brutal military regimes, it will survive Buhari. It is the last frontier of the masses.
Fredrick is a media personality, he tweets @FredrickNwabufo