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Punch Stand; Start Of Media Battle Against Buhari

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NigeriaNews takes a look at the position of the Punch Newspaper on the human rights record of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The swift response of the presidency to the Punch editorial of Wednesday has set a battle line between the media and this present administration.

The Punch says that it will henceforth be addressing President Muhammadu Buhari with his former prefix of General and dictator until his government begins to respect human rights.

The newspaper took this position a few days that the operatives of the State Security Service invaded a Federal High Court, Abuja to arrest the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest and Publisher of the online medium, Sahara Reporter, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

Headlined, Buhari’s Lawlessness: Our Stand, the newspaper condemned the excesses of the security agents and advised the president to correct the Human Rights abuses.

Reacting to the editorial, the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina said there was nothing untoward about the position of the newspaper, so far the prefix of a General was earned by Buhari for his meritorious service to his father’s land and more so that he is now the Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces through election.

But the Senior Special Assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu differed in his response, arguing that the Punch has no right to change the prefix of the president that was constitutionally elected to his former General title.

He thus drew a battle line, which of course is the beginning of hostility between Buhari’s administration and the media.

Punch has a history of proscription, having fought the military dictatorship for many years. During the regime of the former dictator, late Sani Abacha, the Punch premises at Mangboro Bus Stop, along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway was sealed by the government.

Yet, the newspapers still found its way to the newsstand. It was a battle the medium fought fiercely and won.

In those days, journalists were abducted and sent to jail without trials by the military junta. News Magazine like the Tell and Newswatch and their reporters suffered in the hands of soldiers but the undying spirit of these men of the pen did not only return Nigeria to democracy, it gave the freedom of speech that Nigerians began to enjoy in 1999.

The former President Olusegun Obasanjo and one of his successors, Goodluck Jonathan were criticized and called names by members of the public.

Of course, Obasanjo had records of human rights abuse as a former head of State but he could not exhibit this tendency as much as he would have loved as a civilian president.

He was publicly mocked and likened to an Ape, yet his government never came up with the idea of “Hate Bill” as it is being peddled by the current administration of Buhari.

Jonathan once said that he was the most abused president in the world, perhaps after Donald Trump of the United States. This could be true because he was voted out of power despite his tolerance to hate speech.

As a matter of fact, the current administration rode on hate speech to get to power but lacks the stamina to tolerate criticism. Every critic and convener of protest are now seeing as an enemy of the State. The operatives of the DSS go after them, detain them in custody and refuse to release them in spite of court order.

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