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Nigeria15 June 2007

Government uses planning pretext to demolish TV station’s studios in Abuja without warning

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s demolition of the premises of African Independent Television (AIT), a privately-owned TV station based in the capital of Abuja, by the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA).

“Tearing down a TV’s station’s studios without prior warning is an act of violence, one that highlights the constant hostility the privately-owned media have to face in Nigeria,” the press freedom organisation said. “AIT is the country’s oldest privately-owned TV station and this was not the first time it had been targeted by the authorities. The government clearly saw this as a good way of silencing an irritating news organisation.”

AIT director-general Imoni Amarere told The Punch newspaper that when his staff got to work yesterday morning they found red paint indicating the buildings to be torn down. Escorted by policemen, two bulldozers and two vehicles with FCDA markings arrived soon afterwards and began the demolition. Some employees tried to stand in the way, but they were quickly pushed aside. One of the two cameras used to film the demolition was seized by the police.

Amarere said the demolition team was led by a woman who said she was acting on the orders of the federal authorities and did not have to give any explanation. The FCDA later said the AIT’s property did not accord with city planning and encroached on neighbouring property. Amarere said he had never received the least verbal or written warning that the premises were about to be torn down.

Three buildings owned by AIT, including those housing its studios, were demolished.

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