By Dirisu Yakubu
A group, the Network for Best Practice and Integrity in Leadership, NEBPRIL has cautioned the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC not to inflame passions by seeking to truncate the free flow of information to Nigerians.
This is coming against the background of the N9 m fine imposed on the trio of Arise TV, Channels Television and the African Independent Television, AIT, by the NBC, for alleged broadcast of unverified visuals of the Lekki Toll Gate shootings last week.
NEBPRIL in a statement issued by its chairman, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, a former member of the House of Representatives, noted that the regulator (NBC) of broadcasting in the country cannot afford to act as complainant, prosecutor and judge in one fell swoop.
It also expressed dismay at the failure of NBC to query the stations before imposing the heavy sanction.
The statement read in part: “Like many Nigerians, we read with consternation the fines of between two to three million Naira imposed on the stations over their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests which recently swept across the country.
“These are tenuous times that require circumspection by public officials in the discharge of their duties; leaving many to wonder what the rush to fine the stations was all about, especially as the Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims set up by the Lagos state government was yet to be inaugurated when the NBC slammed its hammer.
“The rationale for the sanctions, as announced by the NBC’s Acting Director-General, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, does not sound plausible to us and in fact, to every sane Nigerian who followed the protest via the media channels while it lasted.
“From what we know, these sanctions by the NBC are an affront to the journalism profession. We, therefore, view it as an attempt to muzzle free press and cow the media from informing the public about the goings-on in the society and to chiefly hold the government accountable to the people.
“Recently, the world witnessed #Blacklivesmatter protests in the United States of America occasioned by the unlawful execution of a citizen, George Flyod, by a police officer.
“Despite replaying footages gotten from the different sites of the protests, oftentimes from participants of the various marches, no station was fined for discharging their constitutional mandates of informing the members of the public.”
The group further added that “If indeed, Professor Idachaba was to do anything noble, he should have commended the Nigerian media for ensuring all-sides, all-angles coverage of the #EndSARS protests rather than imposing the infamous sanctions on the three TV houses.”
It also called on the NBC to immediately withdraw the fines with immediate effect.