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Nigeria22 September 2008

TV station allowed back on the air three days after being closed because of false report

Channels TV, the privately-owned TV station that was closed on 16 September for wrongly reporting that President Umaru Yar’Adua was about to resign because of ill health, was given permission by the National Broadcasting Commission on 19 September to resume broadcasting. The NBC also confirmed the release of all the Channels TV journalists who were arrested.

NBC director-general Yomi Bolarinwa said the commission was satisfied with the results of its investigation into the false report. He added that the station had been told to establish an effective mechanism for verifying stories before broadcasting them.

17.09 - Security agents close TV station that said president was resigning

Reporters Without Borders calls for the reopening of Channels TV, a independent television station whose Lagos headquarters and Abuja bureau were raided and closed by the federal State Security Service (SSS) yesterday after it wrongly reported that President Umaru Yar’Adua was about to resign because of ill health.

“This show of force by the SSS in a privately-owned TV station’s premises was illegal and incomprehensible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is not the job of the security forces to regulate the media. If the governments thinks there is no entity capable of dealing with this kind of problem, then all it has to do is create one. We urge the authorities to reverse this decision and to allow Channels TV to resume broadcasting.”

Yesterday’s raids on the station’s studios in Lagos and Abuja were carried out at around 4 p.m. by about 30 SSS agents. Five members of its staff, including news controller Ambrose Okoh, general manager Steve Judo and Abuja bureau chief Bashir Adigun, were detained. Broadcasting was suspended as a result of the raid.

Channels TV reported the president’s imminent resignation after a news dispatch to this effect was emailed to news media. It had as the sender’s address and appeared to have come from the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). But NAN’s deputy editor-in-chief denied that the agency ever sent the report.

Presidential aides roundly denied the report, describing it as a “fabrication.” One said it smacked of “sabotage and an attempt to cause chaos.” He said an investigation would be carried out to establish its origin.

President Yar’Adua has been ill for years and, since taking office in May 2007, has spent two long periods abroad receiving treatment, in such countries as Germany and Saudi Arabia. His health is often the subject of rumours and editorials in the Nigerian press.

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