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Cablegate: Nigeria: Foreign Minister Discusses Closure of Channels Tv

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PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1914 2680823
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 240823Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4037
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 9991
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0387
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS ABUJA 001914

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KHUM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES CLOSURE OF CHANNELS TV

REF: ABUJA 1887

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE USG

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On September 19, Ambassador Sanders called Foreign
Minister Ojo Maduekwe to discuss his upcoming visit to the United
Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In a side conversation, the
Ambassador raised concerns about the way in which Channels TV was
summarily shut down, saying it fell outside the bounds of the rule
of law and freedom of the press (reftel). The FonMin agreed that the
GON could have handled the situation differently, but there was a
sense that the suspension was warranted until an investigation could
be completed to ensure that there were no subversive measures
underfoot. The Ambassador said this issue and others, such as the
lack of closure on big cases in the EFCC, would be on the minds of
USG representatives at UNGA. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In a side conversation with Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe,
Ambassador Sanders raised concerns about the way in which Channels
TV was summarily shut down, stating that it fell outside the rule of
law and freedom of press. The Ambassador noted that Assistant
Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, David
Kramer, who met the FonMin on a recent visit to Nigeria, also
expressed concern about the GON's recent actions toward the private
television entity. The FonMin said the actions of the GON were "an
unfortunate set of circumstances," but underscored just how nervous
and concerned people are about issues the GON feels undermine its
national security. He agreed that things probably could have been
handled differently and better, but said there was a sense that the
suspension was warranted until the investigation could be completed
to ensure there were not any subversive measures underfoot.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador asked the FonMin why the GON did not use the
legal system and the court to address its concerns rather than
taking police action against an entity acting under its right to
freedom of the press. He said, as he has many times, that Nigeria
is a young democracy, and that it is going to make mistakes from
time to time, but its friends should try to work with it through
these mistakes and avoid the position of always criticizing. The
Ambassador noted that freedom of the press is one of the pillars of
democracy and it disturbs the international community when any
democracy, young or old, takes this sort of action. The FonMin
explained that the GON was trying to rectify the situation, and that
he was dispatched to visit not only the governor of Lagos, but also
President and CEO of Channels TV John Momoh on September 19, which
he did. Maduekwe told Momoh that this clearly could have been
handled differently, but that all institutions in Nigeria needed to
work together not only to improve democracy, but also to collaborate
on any problems that might arise, such as this. The FonMin said
Channels TV was up and running and the suspension was lifted because
the investigation showed no intentional wrong doing.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador told the FonMin that as he prepared for his
trip to UNGA, the issue of biggest concern for the USG will continue
to be the lack of closure on big cases in the EFCC, but that given
the incident with Channels TV the issue of freedom of the press will
most likely arise, as well as our desire to support and work closely
with the GON as it tries to address issues in the Niger Delta.

5. (SBU) The FonMin told the Ambassador that he had received the
non-paper on UNGA and thought he could support most of the USG
positions on UNGA in an effort to get our bilateral relationship and
dialog back on track.

SANDERS

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