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The NBC, again! – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

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editorial staff

It is equally good that many Nigerians have adequately condemned the National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC) instruction to broadcast stations not to report details of bandit and insurgent attacks. On July 7, the commission issued a circular entitled “Newspaper Reviews and Current Affairs Programs: Caution” warned broadcasters not to “glorify the nefarious activities of insurgents, bandits and kidnappers”. While recognizing the fact that the media should bring information about security to Nigerians’ doorstep, the Commission said, “To be cautious, as too much detail can negatively affect the efforts of our security officers, who are required to deal with them”. the riot.”

It called on broadcasters to “advise their guests and / or program analysts not to polarize citizens with divisive rhetoric, to make their point of view clear, and not to provide details of the security issues or the victims of these security challenges in order to support the efforts of Nigerians Soldiers and other security agents. “

The newspapers were not spared either. NBC said some of the stations’ newspaper reviews have an “ethnological coating” that tends to “play one part of the country against another, leaving Nigerians in daily hysteria”. It effectively reminded broadcasters of sections 5.4.1 (f) and 5.4.3 of the NBC Code, which states: “The broadcaster must not transmit any divisive material that could threaten or endanger the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as sovereign” . State.

“When reporting on conflict situations, the broadcaster assumes the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality.”

Interestingly, the Directive recently did not mention any serial violations to underline the need for the latest measure, hence the questions about the new “pathologies” that the measure was intended to address. Or could it be an expansion of the anti-media sentiment in the government to downsize the media?

Perhaps none of these advice from NBC (if it really is) would have gone beyond face value without the forerunners of the Commission, and especially the federal government. In the recent past in particular, the Commission has acted against some broadcasters in a manner which arouses suspicion of their motives.

For example, last October it imposed N3 million sanctions each on AIT, Channels and Arise News television stations for allegedly violating the Broadcasting Code in reporting the #EndSARS protests. They have been accused of patronizing social media by taking unprofessional stories away from them, which ultimately sparked passion and violence.

Two months earlier, in August of last year to be precise, the Commission had also fined Nigeria Info 99.3 FM N5 million for allegedly deploying its platform to spread unverifiable views that incite crime and public disturbance be able. The offensive view was voiced by a former presidential candidate, Obadah Mailafia, who, during a speech on the station, claimed that a governor of the northern state was a commander of Boko Haram. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was one of the many Nigerians who condemned this fine, calling it undemocratic and punitive.

In May 2021, it was Channels TV and Inspirational FM’s turn to swallow the bitter pill of $ 5 million for allegedly broadcasting secessionist, divisive, violent and inflammatory comments.

All of these actions and probably more have resulted in many Nigerians feeling that the Commission does not wish broadcasters any luck. For example, why would a well-meaning agency charged with regulating the broadcasting industry increase the fine for violating its code from N500,000 to a whopping N5 million?

So we don’t have to look far to find out why Nigerians cried foul instantly when NBC issued the latest policy.

But for once, the broadcasters do not seem to be in a hurry to obey this obviously disgusting instruction. Nigerian Guild of Editors President Mustapha Isah, Nigerian Union of Journalists National President Chris Isiguzo, and Center for Media Law and Advocacy Executive Director Richard Akinnola all said the directive would not put the media off. According to them, the media are reporting on events; they can’t do it. That is an assertion of fact.

A major problem with the Commission’s code is the problem of definition. For example, what is “hate speech”? Where does “hate speech” come from: is it only broadcast by the media? Can’t the government’s actions and omissions constitute “hate speech” or “hate actions / policies / programs”?

For example, who determines in the new directive when “caution” is thrown to the wind in the course of broadcasting and when the specification of “details” becomes excessive or unbearable? In many cases, definitions of these concepts become subjective or, at best, nebulous. However, it is NBC that is acting as the prosecutor, prosecutor, and judge in these cases. This is wrong; especially since the underlying assumption is that she would always be rational in her decision making.

But nothing could be further from the truth. This is especially true of an organization that has served more of an appendix to the federal government over the years, and particularly under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

We are all living witnesses to the grand scheme of the government to effectively cripple the media through the now suspended amendment to the laws establishing the NBC itself and the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) in the National Assembly. Quickly realizing the dangers of passing such amendments, Nigerians joined the media who said it was a ploy to gag the press. The heat this suggestion generated was too great to be ignored; its sponsor Olusegun Odebunmi had to withdraw the bill to allow “more advice”. Although the bill was sponsored by a member of the National Assembly, quite a few saw it as the hands of the government.

The reason for this is not far-fetched. Aside from the usual unease of the current federal government with a free press that is undisguised through body language and open actions and remarks, Nigerians easily remember that the then General Buhari became head of state after the coup that led the Shehu Shagari government on Jan. , 1983, almost four months later promulgated the notorious Decree 4 on Protection from False Accusations. It has been called the most repressive press law of our time.

The Buhari government would not be the first to make proposals to gag the press or actually make attempts in that direction. But even the Nigerian media have grown up in their resolute rejection of such attempts since the colonial era.

We sympathize with the government for being unable to handle the goodwill it had from the overwhelming majority of Nigerians when it boarded on May 29, 2015. If you enjoyed the good press so much then, you should ask yourself what went wrong that such goodwill evaporated and look inward instead of making the press your case. As mentioned earlier, the media does not create events; they just report them. It is only a matter of time before the media that doesn’t reflect society will die.

It is high time the government abandoned the idea that only those of them in positions of authority are good for the country and know what is best for its citizens. Had that been the case, Nigeria would not be in the mess it is in today. The media may not be perfect, they are still a marketplace for ideas that cannot be dismissed in a democracy.

Nothing we have said should be misunderstood as supporting the irresponsibility of journalists. Our position, however, is that the media have a constitutional oversight role over government and that it can only be effectively exercised when it is free. Certainly the media do not need the crutches that the government has tried to make available to them on various pretexts. There are adequate laws in our law books that encourage irresponsible journalism.

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