Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to rescind its decision to impose fines of N5 million each on a television station and three pay TV platforms for allegedly undermining Nigeria’s national security by carrying documentaries on banditry in Nigeria, saying the regulator’s action is wrong and unjustifiable in a democratic society.
The NBC announced in a statement on August 3, 2022 that it had imposed sanctions of N5 million each on Multichoice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV; TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV); and NTA Startimes Limited for carrying a documentary by the BBC Africa Eye titled “Bandits Warlords of Zamfara”, which the Commission claimed glorified the activities of bandits and undermines national security in Nigeria.
It said it had also fined Trust-TV Network Limited N5 million for its documentary titled: “Nigeria’s Banditry – The Inside Story”. It accused them of contravening the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Sixth Edition, especially Paragraphs 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11.2.
However, in a statement by its programme director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA described the NBC’s action as unconstitutional and repressive, threatening to take legal action against the commission if the measures are not reversed.
He stated that the Government is embarrassed by its inability to address the challenge posed by the so-called bandits to the safety and security of Nigerians and members of the public at large, hence, enforced through the NBC in an effort to punish them for portraying the Government in bad light.
He reitereted that the reporting by the television station and the platforms is consistent with role assigned to the media by Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people, in this case, with respect to the security and welfare of the people.
In his word, the bandits are still in business following the business transaction the government is having with them by paying them obscene amounts in cash as ransom.
Mr. Longe criticized the NBC for allowing itself to be used by the Federal Government as a tool for the censorship of broadcasters and broadcast platforms when it should be playing the role of an independent regulatory authority in accordance with internationally established norms and standards for media regulators.
He called on the NBC to seek appropriate guidance in the performance of its functions as the regulatory authority for broadcasting in Nigeria in order to stop bringing Nigeria into ridicule before the international community.