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Urging restraint does not amount to muzzling the media

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Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

Sir: This is no time to unnecessarily conflating issues that border on national security. There is a huge difference between sanitising media operations and muzzling the media.

The two are not the same, except we want to play games. In a fragile polity like ours that is dangerously hanging on the precipice, there is a moral imperative on the part of the government or its regulatory agencies to rein in on the indiscretions of media practice. Doing so does not in any conceivable way translate to ‘‘muzzling the media.’’

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The Rwandan experience is a perfect reference to what happens when government abdicates its responsibility of regulating media, especially, broadcast media operations. We cannot be tired of citing the Rwandan example because it provides a veritable template for the crisis of unmitigated proportion.   

The fact really is that the Nigerian media space, including the emerging media domain, is replete with indiscretions that threaten or are capable of threatening its own operations as well as the unity, peace and security of Nigeria. That is the reality and we owe it to ourselves to tell ourselves the hard truth and not hide under the populist declarations to conflate issues.

Recklessness in the media space is certainly undeniable. Nigerians are not unmindful of how the use of fake news had adversely affected the peace and unity of this country. For example, 101 cases of fake news on the #EndSARS protest was identified by a credible media platform, PRNigeria, which were shared and disseminated on various social media platforms including the American CNN. It is on record that CNN admitted to this act. Many people that fell victim to that protest would have been alive today if not for ignoble activities of purveyors of fake news. So why the fuss anytime NBC decides to carry out its statutory mandate in the broadcast industry?

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Sanctioning erring media houses for unprofessional conduct, therefore, is in line with the NBC act and should not be a matter for public debate as the provisions of the law guiding the operations of the NBC are clear and unambiguous. It is a different thing to say the commission acted illegally. But so far, no such allegation has been made. Allowing the media to go unchecked, unregulated would definitely lead to anarchy and breakdown of law and order. 

Godsgift Onyedinefu is a journalist based in Abuja.

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