By Gabriel Ewepu
CIVIL Society Organisations, CSOs, Monday, reacted to the N3 million each the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, the sanction of African Independent Television, ARISE Television and Channels Television respectively, over alleged unprofessional coverage of the #EndSARS protests across the country.
The Director-General, NBC, Prof Armstrong Idachaba, disclosed this at a media briefing on Monday in Abuja, where he said the affected stations were guilty of escalating and instigating violent turn the #EndSARS protest took across the country, which was a breach of provisions of Section 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which states that; “the broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the code emanation from the use of material from user-generated sources.”
He also queried that the eagerness to break news and be pace setters stations made the stations to engage in the very unprofessional attitude of speculative and unverifiable broadcast, and added that the sanction is to serve as a deterrent to broadcasters who deliberately ignore to verify stories before they broadcast.
Reacting to the development, the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “There is nothing unprofessional about the conduct of these frontline media organisations, but we must see the latest action of the NBC done at the command of the Minister for Information and the federal government, as a threat to free press, free speech and democratic governance.
“Apparently, the government has learned nothing from days and weeks of protest that is centred largely on justice, accountability, transparency and the need to end police brutality, but what we are now seeing is the rise of executive brutality, trampling on the press.”
The Country Director, Global Rights Nigeria, Abiodun Baiyewu, said, “I think the government has assumed a new level of bullying and will only end up shooting themselves in the foot.
“This is a flagrant abuse of power and must stop forthwith. The government must retract their statement and apologise to these media organisations, whose conducts have been impartial and clearly above board. It is shameful to think that they will attempt to gag the media in this uncouth manner.”
President and Founder Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria, PMNN, Yahaya Ndu, said, “Sanctioning the media over the #EndSARS protests may not be very helpful especially as information technology and social media as well as the international media are there and will remain there.
“As a matter of fact sanctioning our local private media may be dangerously counterproductive.
“What the Government should do is to begin to explore ways and means of robustly engaging youths and masses in dialogue to arrive at a consensus on how to address police brutality and maladministration and rampant corruption in the polity.”
The Director, Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, said, “Would they have preferred a blackout? Would they be happy if there was no coverage? Are they trying to become thought police? I think the media houses did their level best in the circumstances and should be applauded rather than sanctioned. The only point one could say the NBC could possibly raise its voice would be to say that our journalists should have helmets and bulletproof vests when out on our hostile streets.
ALSO READ: SERAP asks NBC to withdraw ‘illegal fines on Channels TV, AIT, Arise TV or face legal action’
“While no media house should publish overtly inciting reports, The NBC should be careful not to silence the media. I don’t think their job is to muzzle the media.”
The Convener, Concerned Nigerian Group, Deji Adeyanju, said, “We now have a situation where the government is now dictating to media houses what they should when they say and how they should say it. Is it not shameful that at the peak of extra-judicious killing at Lekki of #EndSARS protesters the NBC was busy releasing circulars to media houses on how they should report and how they should not report news when the media has been constitutionally empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Amended in 1999 has empowered the media to report on all issues and to hold government accountable.
“You can imagine them saying that video that was live and the whole world was watching and everybody reported on is what NBC is now saying that media houses in Nigeria should not report. You can imagine their censorship. Things like this will not happen in a military regime. You can imagine how bad the situation in our country has become.
“If you look at it critically what is at stake to these people and nothing is at stake as far as this people is concerned; whether anybody likes it or not, these people are bent on destroying gains of democracy that have been recorded in the last 21 years because if not you cannot just explain it why will anybody or agency of government say that the media cannot report on things that happen in the country.
“Look at Section 2 of our Constitution; it has already given an obligation to the media that they at all time uphold the fundamental objectives which are reporting, ensuring that good governance is delivered and the media should hold their responsibility and be accountable to the people, and not to Buhari or the NBC. You can see it is a paradox of some sort.”
The National Coordinator, Grassroots Empowerment and Justice, GEJ, Initiative, Ebriku John Friday, said, “It is completely wrong at a time when tensions are high. NBC should as a matter of urgency reverse its sanction.
“The EndSARS protest and all that happened especially the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Toll Gate is a news item that should be reported and these independent electronic media organisation did just that.
“The government should not take their luck too far with such a laughable sanction that will rather infuriate the protesting youths the more.
“So, NBC should reverse its position and allow the media to do their professional job of keeping Nigerians informed of happenings.
“It is now abundantly clear that the EndSARS protest is not about just the SARS but about all the ills bedevilling the Nation. It calls for an end to bad governance and bad leadership. It is a call for accountability and total eradication of corruption at all level. It’s a call for a better life for Nigerians.
“The NUJ must as a body reject the fine and sanction whatsoever from the NBC. And the time to speak in the interest of all journalists is now.”
Director of Programmes, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, said, “It is unfortunate that we have suddenly slipped back to the era of the gagging of free speech.
“The same government that rode to power on the mantra of freedom of speech is doing everything to muzzle the media from carrying out it is a legitimate function of reporting events as they are. It wasn’t even as bad as this during the military.”
The Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, David Anyaele, said, “The situation we find ourselves as a nation requires that the governments should take appropriate action to deescalate tension within the polity. Sanctioning the media when the panels across the country is commencing is how not to promote peace and tranquillity.
“In my view, it should be the outcome of the panels that expose the role played by different actors during the protest.”