...Fine arbitrary, attack on press freedom– NUJ, IPC
By Emmanuel Elebeke
THE Federal Government has made good its threat to sanction Trust TV as the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, yesterday slammed a N5 million fine on the television station over the broadcast of a documentary, titled “Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story”, aired by the station on March 5, 2022.
The NBC in a statement signed by Director General, Balarabe Shehu Illela, said the fine was imposed on Trust TV because of its broadcast of the said documentary which contravened sections of the National Broadcasting Code.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government had on July 28 , 2022, threatened to sanction British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, and Trust TV for airing documentaries on the activities of bandits in Nigeria.
However, reacting to the fine yesterday, Trust TV management said it is currently studying the development.
“While we are currently studying the commission’s action and weighing our options, we wish to state unequivocally that as a television station, we believe we were acting in the public interest by shedding light on the thorny issue of banditry and how it is affecting millions of citizens of our country..
“As far as we are concerned, the said documentary traces the root of the communal tensions and systemic inadequacies which led to the armed conflict that is setting the stage for another grand humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.
“It presents insights into the intersection of injustice, ethnicity and bad governance as drivers of the conflict.
“It also aggregates voices of experts and key actors towards finding solutions, including those of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Senator Saidu Mohammed Dansadau, who hails from one the worst hit communities in Zamfara State.
Other experts, who featured in the documentary include scholars like Professor Abubakar Saddique of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and Dr. Murtala Ahmed Rufai of Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, who have both studied the subject of banditry for a long period. The documentary also brought to the fore the horrifying stories of victims of banditry.”
Fine arbitrary, unacceptable – IPC
Reacting to the fine yesterday, International Press Centre, IPC, in a statement signed by the Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade, said: ”IPC is dismayed that the Federal Government, through the NBC, has shamefully done what it threatened to do, forgetting that in a democracy, the basic tenets of the rule of law cannot be trampled upon as it suits the whims and caprices of those in the corridors of power.“
”In the above context, it is worth pointing out that Trust TV was neither notified of the alleged infringement of sections 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11. 2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code nor requested to defend itself against the allegations before the fine was handed down.
”In other words, there was no fair hearing for Trust TV, but one-sided hearing of the accusation by the Information Minister, upon which the NBC acted.“
Punishment, an attack on press freedom – NUJ
Reacting to the fine, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, President, Chris Iziguzo, said: “The fine imposed on Trust TV by the NBC over the broadcast of a documentary on the state of insecurity in the country entitled ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: the Inside Story’ is totally unacceptable and a direct attack on media freedom.
“We’ve always asserted that the right of the people to know is a key feature of democratic governance and as such any attempt at denying the people this key democratic right will not be in the overall interests of the country.
“Rather than impose fine on the media House, one would have thought that government would engage the media House and possibly seek for ways of extracting the necessary intelligence that would help in combating the insecurity plaguing the nation from the said documentary.
“The Federal government must understand clearly that a partnership with the media will go a long way in helping them in the fight against insurgency/banditry in the country.
“Apart from condemning the imposition of this fine on the media platform, we want to call on the NBC to without delay withdraw the fine in the overall interest of media freedom, the right of the people to know and democracy.”
”It is unacceptable that NBC, funded by tax payers money and expected to act in the public interest, would continuously exhibit the symptoms of an attack dog of the government once the information minister blows the whistle.“
”The Federal Government, the Information Minister and the NBC must be made to understand that the banditry ravaging the country and daily putting the lives and property of the citizens in jeopardy is not a creation of the media, which has through editorial opinions, investigations and broadcast programmes offered suggestions and support to the government on the way out of the general insecurity.“
”At the same time, in line with its constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold the government accountable to the people, the media has also been critical of the inability of the government to fufill its own part of the constitutional bargain by guaranteeing the lives and security of the people.
In the circumstance, the IPC considers the fine imposed on Trust TV an act of injustice, an assault on media freedom and a violation of the right of the people to know the truth about the dynamics of banditry in the country and the decision should, therefore, be reversed.“”We call on the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, Nigerian Guild of Editors , the Nigeria Union of Journalists and other bodies championing freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country to rise in unison in condemnation of this new development and hostility by the government.’
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