Africa Independent Televisionand RayPower FMshut down on the orders of National Broadcasting Commission are back on air.
The two broadcast houses, shut down on Thursday, resumed transmission Friday evening following an order by a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday.
The court ordered NBC and other parties to a suit filed by Daar Communications Plc, operator of African Independent Televisionand RayPower100.5 FMto maintain status quo.
Ruling on an ex parte application by Daar Communications Plc, Mr Inyang Ekwo directed all parties to maintain status quo as of May 30, 2019, pending determination of the plaintiff’s application for an interlocutory injunction against NBC and two other defendants – Federal Ministry of Culture and Information and Attorney-General of the Federation.
The applicant had filed the ex parte motion on May 30 informing the court that “credible information just reaching” it “has it that the defendants have concluded plans to, in the next few days, invade and shut down the premises of the plaintiff and/or part thereof.”
But on Thursday, NBC, through its Director-General, Mr Modibbo Kawu, announced its decision to suspend the company’s operating licences indefinitely.
Kawu stated that infractions committed by the media houses owned by Daar Communications included their inability to pay their licence renewal fees and the airing of a presidential election documentary while the matter was still before a tribunal, among others.
At Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, Mr Benson Igbanor of Mr Mike Ozekhome’s law firm moved Daar Communication’s ex parte application seeking to avert suspension of its licences by NBC.
In his ruling delivered shortly after listening to Igbanor, Ekwo granted the order for parties to the suit to maintain status quo, but refused to grant prayers 1 and 2 contained in the applicant’s application.
The judge said such prayers could not be granted in the absence of the defendants.
One of the prayers rejected by the court, sought “an ex parte order of interim injunction” restraining defendants “from blocking, jamming, stopping, removing from air and/or interfering with the airwaves of the plaintiff/applicant in any way and manner howsoever, in its broadcast and airing of news, views, documentaries, or any other legitimate broadcast material that is usually associated with television, radio or social media broadcast pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”
The other prayer rejected by the court sought a similar order to restrain the defendants “from invading the premises of the plaintiff/applicant, or closing down the said premises, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”
Justice Ekwo said the two prayers would not be granted without hearing the defendants.
He, instead, ordered parties to maintain status quo and directed defendants to appear in court on June 13 to show cause why the prayers rejected on Friday and as contained in a motion on notice filed by the plaintiff, should not be granted.
A copy of the enrolled order made by the judge on Friday read in part, “It is hereby ordered as follows:
“That prayers 1 and 2 on the motion ex parte cannot be granted without hearing the other parties.
“An order is hereby made that parties shall maintain status quo ante bellum as at May 30, 2019 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed in this case.”
He added, “Defendants are hereby ordered to show cause on the next date of hearing why prayers on the motion on notice of the plaintiff/applicant ought not to be granted.
“Case adjourned till June 13, 2019 for defendants to appear in court and show cause as ordered.”
Meanwhile, Federal Government had earlier on Friday come under more attacks for suspending licences of African Independent Televisionand RayPowerFMoperated by DAAR Communications Limited, owned by Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, Mr Raymond Dokpesi.
Suspension repressive, say PDP governors
But PDP governors, in their reaction to the suspension, described it as repressive and asked Federal Government to reverse the suspension of the licences.
The reaction of the governors was contained in a communiqué read by Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Mr Seriake Dickson, in the early hours of Friday after its meeting at Bayelsa State Government Lodge in Abuja on Thursday night.
Dickson said, “The forum noted the shocking intolerance and act of repression against the media by Federal Government. As you are aware, DAAR Communications, we understand, has been closed down. And our position is that due process must be followed.
“If there is any allegation of infraction, then due processes of the law should take place because when you shut down news outlet, when you harass and intimidate journalists, then you are shutting down Nigerians from speaking their minds. And in democracy, freedom of expression is a cardinal component.
“So we condemn what has taken place and we urge Federal Government and its agency to forthwith, do what is right; that is the reopening of the company and follow due process of the law.”