Destruction of transmitters silences two broadcast media in southeast Nigeria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the illegal destruction of transmitters in Port Harcourt, the capital of southeastern Nigeria’s Rivers State, which has silenced a local radio station and TV channel, thereby restricting access to news in the region. The authorities must do whatever is necessary to ensure that the journalists at these media outlets can resume working, RSF says.
Radio Raypower FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT), which are both owned by DAAR Communications, have not been able to broadcast in Port Harcourt since 3 September, when telecommunications engineers working for the local government, accompanied by armed security agents, dismantled their transmitter mast. Bulldozers were then deployed to demolish their transmitter complex.
The land on which DAAR Communications built the transmitter complex is the subject of a dispute between the company and Rivers State government that has been before the courts since September 2022. But no court decision has ever been issued. The Rivers State government, then led by Nyesom Wike, nonetheless issued an order with no legal basis on 20 March 2023 giving DAAR Communications 48 hours to dismantle the complex and vacate the land.
The Raypower FM and Africa Independent Television transmitter complex enabled these two media outlets to broadcast in Rivers State. Its destruction therefore constitutes a significant attack on press freedom. The employees of these two media are out of work, and the four million people who followed them are deprived of their news sources. As there was no judicial basis for the complex’s destruction, it was also illegal. The Rivers State government should have waited for a decision by the court to which the matter was referred in September 2022.
The Whistler news site has pointed out that the transmitters were destroyed one week after Nyesom Wike, the former Rivers State governor who is now a federal government minister with responsibility for the federal capital, Abuja, accused AIT of falsely reporting that he said he would “fix” Abuja’s problems within six days.
Raypower FM, which has ten local branches across Nigeria, and AIT, which operates in 24 of the country’s 36 states, were reaching more than four million listeners and viewers every day in Rivers State until their transmitters were destroyed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an AIT journalist told RSF: “The technicians are no longer working. As for the journalists, it’s very hard for them to find the motivation to continue. The only possible way to continue broadcasting would be to send the content we produce to Abuja, where the main offices of both media outlets are located.”