By Dirisu Yakubu
Famous rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has condemned the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for what it called its attempt to muzzle press freedom in the country.
This is as the group argued that only dictatorial regimes reminiscent of military governments would see journalism as an enemy that must be brought down or forced to compromise.
HURIWA, in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, also noted that media houses in the country would be contravening the provisions of the Nigerian 1999 constitution (as amended) should they subscribe to the policy direction by the NBC.
The Rights group recalled that the National Broadcasting Commission had ordered television and radio stations in Nigeria not to divulge “details” of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in their reports.The regulator specifically directed radio and television stations not to “glamorize the nefarious activities of insurgents” during their daily Newspaper Reviews. As an unwritten custom, broadcast stations in Nigeria review Newspaper headlines daily before their breakfast shows.
According to Onwubiko, “media freedom otherwise known as freedom of expression is a foundation for many other rights and is a cornerstone for strengthening the principle and practice of constitutional democracy. Those who should know have emphatically stated that freedom of expression is a human right and forms Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
He further noted that based on legal scholarship, authorities and a plethora of decided cases and case laws, “freedom of expression covers freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and gives individuals and communities the right to articulate their opinions without fear of retaliation, censorship or punishment.”
The statement further read: “HURIWA wonders how the NBC wants to dictate how electronic media outlets tell their verified stories by illegally asking them to modify the facts of their findings as reporters,” insisting that “the right to freedom of expression wouldn’t be worth much if the authorities also had the right to imprison anyone who disagrees with them.
“This is because as correctly espoused by constitutional scholars, an effective media also depends on the legal basis that freedom of expression gives the right to function and report freely, sometimes critically, without threat or fear of punishment.
“Truly and indeed, freedom of expression is not an absolute right: it does not protect hate speech or incitement to violence which most media houses are aware of and as professionals have always adhered to.
“HURIWA agrees that many other rights which are intrinsic to our daily lives in any given constitutional democracy build on and intersect with this protection for free thought and individual expression.”
The group therefore asked the media houses to “disobey the unconstitutional directive of the NBC or else they will lose listeners and followers since Nigeria is not like China whereby there is communism and absolute tyranny of government against the civil society.”