By Temitope Adedeji, Akure
Contrary to the claims that the Ondo State Government has barred the Channels TV, CORE TV and AIT Correspondents from covering government activities in the state, the state government has said it has not barred or expelled any Journalists.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Yemi Olowolabi said no one has expelled any reporters from the government office, adding that the state government would officially write their station if it would disengage them.
The Commissioner noted that the state government maintain a robust relationship with these media stations, stressing that the government of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has continued with the agreement the previous government had with the AIT on the construction of a broadcast house, despite the paucity of fund.
The Information Commissioner said that the reporters in question have since refused to cover government activities, despite the government providing conducive environment for them and also giving them allowances at the governor’s office.
He accused the reporters of being ‘lazy’ saying the government is also not too ‘buoyant’ to pay the quarterly coverage fees to their station.
“They are called dedicated service and I started it when I was CPS 14 years ago. I brought the AIT in, I brought the ITV and Channels. We pay them quarterly for news coverage.
“Now when we resumed, we found out that the previous government was owing them over 300 million. So before commissioners were appointed, the ministry of information had signed an agreement with all of them that it wasn’t this government that owed you, but they negotiated 50% cut, meaning we will pay them 50% of the total sum, and they all agreed.
“We have been paying that debt since I resumed. But we have not renewed any of these contracts, and I also suggest that we should clear what we owe, rather than accruing another hundreds of millions of debt.
“So we had an understanding with them that we will pay what we owe, but you will continue to use our stories. To some of the stations, we have paid some 10 million, others 20 million like that, we are paying them on instalmental basis.
“We have paid twice, it remains just one tranche to clear the debt. Now, based on this understanding, TVC uses our story, Galaxy does, ITV does, but Channels has refused to air anything from Ondo state except it’s negative,unless we pay all the debt. AIT has also refused to use any of our stories.
“So my understanding is that upon the fact that we give them allowances every month, we support them, we create a conducive environment for them to operate, yet they don’t use stories.
“In fact, they don’t even cover events. No private broadcast station covers any story from me, except it is negative news.
“I just told them to go and find something else to do, rather than sit in governor’s office morning till night doing nothing. So nobody has expelled them. If we are expelling them, we will write to their stations formally. But for them to sit dowm doing nothing, I think it’s most unfair to themselves, that’s my position. ”