The Nigeria Union of Journalists, South-South zone and the Civil Society Organisation have condemned the invasion of the African Independent Television and Ray Power FM stations in Rivers State by suspected agents of the state government on Sunday.
Recall that some officials of the state government, accompanied by armed security operatives, stormed the media organisation operated by Daar Communications Plc. with bulldozers and reportedly destroyed the mast used for transmission.
In the event, the mast collapsed on the company’s transmission room, destroying equipment, which immediately disrupted operations to date.
The engineering house of the company was also partly demolished.
Our correspondent, who visited the facility along Ozuoba, Obio/Akpor local government area of the state on Monday morning, reports that staff were seen in groups outside discussing the development.
Speaking to our correspondent, Acting Head of Station, Daar Communications in Port Harcourt, Anthony Ekiko, said the shutting down would affect about 85 per cent of its workforce.
He condemned the state government’s action, saying the latter did not consult the company before carrying out the deed and called for adherence to the rule of law.
He stated, “So yesterday morning, some men came with policemen, and at the same time, they said they had an order from higher authority to invade our transmission hall and then disconnected a whole lot of things.
“Some of them went up there to lose the mast. While going around, I discovered that the whole thing is down.
“Sometimes it is very challenging to advise the government. The law is there for them to follow. But as far as we are concerned, those who came here and did that are intruders because we were not informed, and it is shameless.”
Meanwhile, reacting to the incident, the South-South Zonal Vice President, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Opaka Dokubo, described the shutdown of the media outfit as unfortunate, stressing that more voices are needed to make democracy work.
Dokubo stated, “That a voice significant enough and very visible like the AIT/Ray Power will go off air under the circumstance that this has happened in Rivers State in a democracy that we operate, I consider it very unfortunate.”
He expressed worry that some journalists could become jobless as a result of the situation.
Dokubo added, “Government at all levels should encourage, support and assist media houses to remain afloat and encourage others to come on board, not attacking it.
“I believe that the government would have found a way of resolving this issue, ” the NUJ official added.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Rivers State Civil Society Organizarion, Enefaa Georgewill, said those behind the attack should be fished out and prosecuted.
“For us in the civil society, we think that government business should be done within the ambits of the law.
“We think that it is an attempt to gag the media. It is condemnable and goes to show the level of desperation our politics and governance can go.
“We think that before the government or its agents to carry out any action whether demolition or so, it must be backed by our law court.
“So, we feel that condescending that low in a democracy is shameful and embarrassing. And whoever has directed that action should be arrested and prosecuted by the police for such security breaches.”
Recall that the land on which the AIT and Ray Power FM are built, and which houses its transmission station has been a subject of dispute between the government and Daar Communications Plc.
In March, the State Government in line with its GRA Phase 5 masterplan reclaimed and fenced a section of the land.