Media rights groups flay NBC’s N20m fine imposition on broadcast stations
International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and League of Nigerian Columnists (LNC) have expressed dissatisfaction with National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC) recent N20 million fine against Trust TV, NTA, DStv and TStv.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had vowed that government would punish the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Trust TV over what it called the unprofessional airing of different documentaries that “glorified and capable of fuelling terrorism in the country.”
But last Wednesday, in Abuja, NBC’s Director General, Balarabe Shehu Illela, said the fine was imposed because the documentaries “contravened provisions of the Broadcasting Code.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Executive Director, MRA, Edetaen Ojo, stated that the action was “wrong and unjustifiable.”
He said: “It is tragic for our democracy, that instead of being a regulatory authority, the NBC is allowing itself to be used as a censoring authority with which the Federal Government seeks to shield itself from scrutiny and to punish broadcast stations that attempt to assess its performance or hold it accountable.”
Under our Constitution, he disclosed that the most important function of government, according to Section 14(2)(b), is, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
He said the media, therefore, has a responsibility under Section 22 of the Constitution to “assess the government’s performance of this function and highlight the impact of its failure on the people.”
In a similar vein, LNC Secretary General, Prof. Anthony Kila, said the fine was an archaic and unproductive measure.
“Those that imposed the fine seem to be tied to analogue wherein broadcasting is still fully reliant on the traditional mode of broadcasting. They seem to be unaware of the fact that the documentary in question could have been viewed by equal amount of viewers without using a regulated platform,” he submitted.
Also speaking, IPC Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade, urged members of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other bodies championing freedom of press and freedom of expression to rise in unison in condemnation of the new development.
He said it was unacceptable for NBC, funded by taxpayers’ money and expected to act in the public interest, to “continuously exhibit symptoms of an attack dog of the government once the information minister blows the whistle.”