COVID-19 Panic: Presidency begin media crackdown as Buhari health worsen, bars AIT, Punch from State House

…. after President Buhari went into self-isolation on Tuesday evening following a bout of persistent coughing.

Meanwhile, online newspaper SaharaReporters reported yesterday that a Presidential Intensive Care Unit inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa has been activated and placed on standby after President Buhari went into self-isolation on Tuesday evening following a bout of persistent coughing.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has barred Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Punch Newspapers from media coverage of activities at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

An internal circular on Tuesday, the 24th of March authorised by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina and signed by the deputy director information, Attah Esa, says the directive is aimed at reducing the number of persons in the villa in the face of rising coronavirus infections nationwide.

The directive comes barely a week after the eviction of AIT crew from the coverage of the unveiling of Nigeria’s broadband plan by President Buhari in Abuja.

Punch Newspaper had stirred the wrath of the Nigerian Presidency in December 2019 when it officially designated President Buhari’s government as a dictatorial “regime” following a series of escalating clampdown on journalists and activists in Nigeria. On its part, AIT had been shut down by the Nigerian authorities in June last year for broadcasting reports deemed critical of the Nigerian government.

The development reinforces growing concerns by global rights experts on how governments may abuse state power at the expense of civil liberties and democratic rights.

“The danger is that states, particularly non-democratic or less open societies, would use the opportunity given by the health emergency to crack down on particular minority groups, or individuals or groups that they see as highly problematic,” Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, recently told Al Jazeera.

Only 13 media houses are now allowed to have access to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. They include; Deutsche Welle, NTA, Channels TV, TVC, FRCN, VON, NAN, The Sun, ThisDay, Leadership, Daily Trust, The Guardian and Vanguard.

The directive comes amid reports on Tuesday that the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Abba Kyari, and three of his members of staff, tested positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, online newspaper SaharaReporters reported yesterday that a Presidential Intensive Care Unit inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa has been activated and placed on standby after President Buhari went into self-isolation on Tuesday evening following a bout of persistent coughing.

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