N5m fine on Trust TV is unacceptable – NGE President

From L-R: Maureen Chigbo, President, Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, Lanre Idowu, chief executive officer, Diamond Publications Limited, Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-olu, Isa Mustapha, NGE President, and Gbenga Omotosho, commissioner for information and strategy of Lagos State at the workshop on Thursday in Lagos.

By Anthony Isibor.

ISA Mustapha, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has said that the Guild is totally opposed to the fine of N5 million imposed on Trust TV by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.

Mustapha said at the two-day NGE workshop organized by the Guild in collaboration with the Lagos State Government, in Lagos on Thursday, August 4, 2022, that “the government cannot be the accuser and the judge in matters relating to it”.

The NBC had imposed a fine of N5 million on Trust TV for broadcasting a documentary produced by the BBC, which the NBC claimed that it ‘glamorised banditry’.

Mustapha described the NBC sanction, which was also extended to some other organisations “as unjustifiable and unacceptable”.

“Look, the truth of this matter is this; that fine is punitive, the Guild is totally opposed to it,” he said.

He explained that the role of scrutiny of the media should not be performed by the government, which according to him, has the constitutional power and mandate to hold government accountable.

Mustapha said that the Guild was not comfortable with the activities of the officials appointed to serve in the current regulatory bodies, including the NBC. “That is breathing down on the neck of the broadcast industry in Nigeria,” he said.

“Independent agencies should handle the allegations of infractions leveled against the media by the government, and the media houses so accused must be given the opportunity to defend themselves.

“The NBC by reporting to the minister of information and culture doesn’t have the capacity and the freedom to dispense justice to the broadcast industry so accused.

“There is sub-theme of this event that is so daring to me, and it is titled journalism and the law, who watches the watchdog. It is about regulation.

This sub-team must be included in order to seek stakeholders input in the new regulatory framework that we are currently working on,” he said.

ISA Mustapha, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, speaking at the event on Thursday

He also called on the government to stop intimidating the media as it will not succumb to any form of intimidation.

“Let me tell this to the government, they should stop threatening the media. Please take a look at our history, some of us have been practicing journalism even before the Abacha regime, and we survived those Abacha days, and we survived any bad government.

“They said Trust TV glamorise banditry. Let me ask this question, those who glamorise banditry by turbaning their leader in Zamfara State, they are walking freely, they have not been arrested. But those who tried to expose the activities of bandits, are being fined. Is that justifiable?” he asked.

 “We are going to fight this. It cannot continue,” he said. 

Earlier, Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu, of Lagos State, thanked the Guild for hosting the event in the state and expressed the determination and resolve of the state government to continually support the media as an impartial and independent reviewer of what the government is doing.

Declaring open the workshop, the governor noted that the theme speaks to the conscience of the realities of the moment.

He also said that as a government, they have continued to work towards ensuring that there is access to better, cheaper and faster internet connectivity.

“That speaks to the reality of why we must take advantage of all this new initiatives.

“You can now see that for the government and yourself, it is a win-win situation. You can do your work better, faster.

“The second side of it is around good governance, and I think that the NGE President have mentioned it.

He stated that he had been watching developments concerning the NBC and its sanctions on the BBC and local television stations and expressed his solidarity with the Guild on the issue.

He also urged public servants and politicians to be very careful so as not to gag and stifle free press.

 “So the question we will ask is where is press freedom?,” he asked.

“I stand with you guys in solidarity to say that indeed your profession is not just a noble one, but it is one that gives the general public an independent assessment, holding our government and governance accountable at all times.

 “And that is why I cannot agree less with that NGE President when he said that the body of the NBC should not only be independent, it should be equipped with men of impeccable character and integrity that can indeed work like the Oxfam of this world and indeed sanction any people, and give freedom for all of you to do your work and do it very well.

“And so I want to say to you that our government understands and appreciates that press freedom and media freedom is the way in which we can hold government accountable,” he said.

He also urged the media practitioners to ensure that they ensure proper diligence and verify their information before posting same so as to completely eradicate fake news.

“It is also the responsibility of all of us here to ensure that thin line. We also can self-regulate ourselves.

 “I have enjoyed working with all of you, and I am looking forward to still enjoy the remaining of my four-year tenure, and if all of you feel so compelled during the election, I would not mind to be your governor again,” he added.

A.I

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