The Nigerian Guild of Editors has Friday rejected the N5m ( five million naira) fine imposed on Channels Television and Inspiration FM respectively by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for alleged infractions, describing it as punitive.
The Guild of Editors described the NBC as playing the role of an accuser, the prosecutor and the judge insisted that both stations involved haven’t been given enough time to defend themselves.
Recall Vanguard had reported that NBC imposed a 5million naira fine on Channels Television for an alleged infraction of the NBC broadcast code after ChannelsTV interviewed the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra’s spokesperson, Mr Emma Powerful on its politics programme, Politics Today.
The NBC had on the 27th of April, In a statement by its acting director-general, Armstrong Idachaba, said the sections of the code breached by the stations are “class A” offences which attract the “immediate order of suspension of broadcast services; suspension of licence and immediate shut down”.
But reacting to the fines, The Nigerian Guild of Editors frowned at the action of NBC, saying the National Broadcasting Code is “clearly at variance with the tenets of democracy anchored on freedom of expression and a free press.”
According to the Nigerian Guild of Editors, “These fines are punitive, arbitrary and against press freedom.”
“NBC is punishing Channels TV for interviewing the spokesman of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, while Inspiration FM is facing the hammer of NBC for broadcasting a statement of IPOB declaring a sit -at -home order.” The Guild stated.
“Once again, the NBC has played the role of an accuser, the prosecutor and the judge.” It noted.
Nigerian Guild of Editors opined that such actions do not bedeck democratic principles of freedom of expression.
It said, “In a democratic country like ours, a panel should have been set up to investigate the alleged infractions, with both stations given the opportunity to defend themselves.”
“The National Broadcasting Code is clearly at variance with the tenets of democracy anchored on freedom of expression and a free press.” It pointed out.
The Guild noted that apology letters from both stations affected was too hasty and not enough grounds to justify the actions of the NBC.
“Every accused person or organisation deserves a fair hearing before punishment is pronounced. Obtaining letters of apology from the affected stations under duress can’t justify the action of the NBC.” It said.
In what seems like a wide example of criticisms pointed out against the NBC by many Nigerians, The Nigerian Guild of Editors cited a similar case where a leader of a terrorist group was interviewed by VOA Hausa service but sanctions were not imposed to date.
“The Voice of America, VOA, Hausa Service, recently interviewed the leader of a terrorist group behind the abduction of 22 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna State. In that interview, the terrorists threatened to kill the remaining students in their custody if N100 million ( One hundred million naira ) was not paid within twenty-four hours.”
“Neither the American authorities nor any other regulatory agency imposed sanctions on VOA for this interview.” The Guild noted.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors calls for the review of the broadcast code to help nurture and sustain Nigeria’s democracy.
According to the Nigerian Guild of Editors, “The Nigerian Broadcasting Code should be reviewed without delay to reflect democratic principles. Broadcast stations in Nigeria shouldn’t be made to operate in an atmosphere of fear.
“A free press is needed to nurture and sustain our democracy.” It said.
The Nigeria Guild of Editors warns NBC to stop the harassment of broadcast stations but ensure resolution of trivial matters through dialogue
“The Guild, therefore, calls on NBC to withdraw these obnoxious fines and stop the harassment of broadcast stations over matters that could easily be resolved through dialogue.”