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HURIWA slams NBC, Mohammed over fines on TV stations

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Onwubiko


Minister insists on policy to check fake news

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for fines imposed on private broadcasting stations that beamed the EndSARS protests live.

In a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA said the fines were contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, which obligates the media to function as national conscience.

NBC had fined Channels Television, African Independent Television (AIT) and Arise Television N3 million each for what it described as “unprofessional coverage” of the protests.

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Acting Director-General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, announced this at a press conference in Abuja on Monday. This followed the commission’s warning to all television and radio stations against reporting the protests in a manner that could embarrass the government or private individuals or cause disaffection, incite panic or rift in the society.

The rights group said the minister had made himself the most dangerous enemy of democracy, even as it asked President Muhammadu Buhari to order the quashing of the dictatorial and draconian financial sanctions, which the group said violated the country’s grundnorm.

MEANWHILE, Mohammed has ruled out the prospect of shutting out the social media in the country, but insists on the social media policy to check fake news and misinformation.

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The minister, who appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values yesterday to defend the 2021 budget, acknowledged that the social media had come to stay in the country.

Recalling how the social media was wrongly utilised during the #EndSARS protests, he said the government actually identified the problem since 2017 when it launched a national campaign against fake news.

HURIWA also called on the army to be cautious of the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of citizens. It noted that the army, as part of its constitutional roles, was mandated to adopt law-based strategies devoid of undue use of force to restore peace and security.

The group called on Nigerians desirous of advancing constitutional democracy to support all lawful measures put in place by the army to secure the country and restore order because if hoodlums were allowed free reign in any part of the country, the fundamental rights of citizens would be degraded.

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