On March 19, 2020, government authorities at the Digital Economy Complex in Abuja, Nigeria, expelled journalists from the privately owned broadcaster Africa Independent Television who were preparing to cover an event attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, according to a statement by Daar Communications PLC, the broadcaster’s parent company.
An official from the National Communications Commission, the country’s communications regulator, told several journalists comprising a reporting team for Africa Independent Television to leave the event, and the journalists complied, according to two reporters familiar with the situation, who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The official did not elaborate on why they were required to leave, and said the decision had “come from above,” despite the team being accredited to cover the event, the reporters said. The team was at the complex to cover the unveiling of Nigeria’s broadband plan, which Buhari attended, according to the statement.
Africa Independent Television has previously faced opposition from government authorities; in June 2019, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, the country’s media regulator, suspended Daar Communications’ operating license over programming that allegedly constituted incitement, according to news reports. That suspension was revoked by court order soon afterwards, according to reports.
Henry Nkemadu, spokesperson for the National Communications Commission, told CPJ via messaging app on March 23 that he would investigate the expulsion to determine what happened. On March 27, he told CPJ that he had not been able to identify the reason for the expulsion, as the officials he intended to question were inaccessible amid Nigeria’s COVID-19 lockdown.
On March 24, authorities barred Africa Independent Television and other broadcasters from accessing Buhari’s presidential villa, citing fears of spreading the coronavirus, as CPJ documented at the time.
Reached by phone on March 24, Garba Shehu, senior special adviser to the president on media and publicity, told CPJ that the president was not responsible for the expulsion.