AIT, Raypower FM, Shut down in continuing persecution of DAAR Communications

The authorities in Rivers State, Nigeria, must reverse the closure of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM Radio outlets and end this latest instalment of persecution against DAAR Communications PLC, parent company to these outlets.

This closure, which has been rightfully condemned by rights groups, constitutes yet another brazen attack on press freedom and smacks of witch-hunt.

On September 5, 2023, the authorities in Rivers State closed down the operations of AIT and Raypower FM Radio in Port Harcourt with the excuse that they lacked legal occupancy of the land on which they operated. According to reports, the shutdown happened in the style of an invasion operation by telecommunications engineers contracted by the State Government. These engineers who were accompanied by armed security operatives, disconnected the wave guard from the antenna on the mast of the media organization while riggers dismantled the mast.

While at it, bulldozers were also deployed by the Rivers State Government to demolish the Transmitter Complex at the DAAR Communications PLC Broadcast Centre in Port Harcourt.

The closure has since been condemned by Amnesty International as an attack on press freedom calculated to force these outlets to self-censor. It has also provoked accusations that it is a politically motivated witch hunt against DAAR Communications, which was founded by a stalwart of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), late Chief Raymond Dokpesi.

In their defense, the River State authorities have claimed that the closure is out of the duty to reclaim state lands for development. However, it is a known fact that outlets of DAAR Communications have really been at the receiving end of abuses under recent governments of All Peoples Congress (APC).

In August 2016, the State Government in Bauchi revoked the Right of Occupancy to a land belonging to DAAR Communication due to “overriding public interest.” In May 2019, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had revoked the operating licenses of DAAR Communications after claiming that the company had breached Nigeria’s broadcast code. DAAR Communication PLC would sue the NBC over the issue.

Then, in August 2022, the NBC had again, revoked the operating license of DAAR Communications PLC along with 51 others over alleged default in the payment of operating license fees.

From the foregoing, DAAR Communications and its media outlets had been hit with license revocations and at least one eviction during the previous APC government of former president Muhamadu Buhari. With the current closure of AIT and Raypower FM Radio, Tinubu government, is apparently continuing the persecution of DAAR Communications under Buhari.

DAAR Communications PLC may be the primary target of the closure. However, the action violates the right to information of hundreds of thousands of people who source their news and entertainment contents from these outlets.

The MFWA is appalled by the seeming political witch hunt that has been fuelling these attacks on DAAR Communications and calls for an end to them. In respect of the closure of AIT and Raypower, we demand an immediate reversal and the payment of due restitution in respect of damage to property and loss of revenue.

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