By Anthony Isibor.
MEDIA practitioners in the country have recently expressed concerns over the increasing threat to press freedom in Nigeria. They have also condemned the N5 million imposed on Multichoice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV, TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV) and NTA-Startimes Limited for broadcasting a documentary by the BBC Africa Eye titled, “Bandits Warlords of Zamfara.”
The NBC also fined the Trust Television Network, Trust TV, N5 million for the broadcast of another documentary titled, “Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story,” which was aired by the station on March 5, 2022.
The sanctions by the NBC followed the threat issued by Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, a week earlier that the federal government would sanction Trust TV and BBC for, “terrorism glorification” in their documentaries.
The latest clampdown on the broadcast media was announced on Friday, August 19, 2023 by the NBC that the licenses of the AIT/Ray Power FM (DAAR Communication L.td., Silverbird TV Network and 50 others stations have been revoked over N2.6 billion debt.
Malam Balarabe Ilelah, Director-General of the NBC, who made the disclosure at a news conference on Friday in Abuja, ordered that all the affected stations to should shutdown in the next 24 hours.
Ilelah also directed the NBC offices nationwide to collaborate with the security agencies to ensure the immediate compliance of the order and urged all broadcast stations, which have not renewed their licenses for the current duration to do so within the next 30 days to avoid sanctions.
He listed the other stations to include; Katsina Broadcasting Corporation, Kaduna State Broadcasting Corporation, Jigawa Broadcasting Corporation, Kebbi State Broadcasting Corporation, Zamfara State Broadcasting Corporation and Yobe State Broadcasting Corporation.
Similarly, Ilelah said Imo State Broadcasting Corporation, Anambra State Broadcasting Corporation, Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation, Bayelsa State Broadcasting Corporation, Borno State Broadcasting Corporation and Crowther FM Abuja were among the affected stations.
He explained that in May 2022, the commission published in the national dailies, the list of licensees that were indebted to NBC and granted two weeks to them to renew their licenses and pay their debts or consider their licenses revoked and frequencies withdrawn.
”Three months after the publication, some licensees are yet to pay their outstanding debts in contravention of the NBC Act CAP N11, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, particularly section 10 (a) of the third schedule of the Act.
”In view of this development, the continued operation of the debtor stations is illegal and constitutes a threat to national security.
”Therefore, after due consideration, the NBC hereby announces the revocation of the licenses of the under-listed stations and give them 24 hours to shut down their operations,” he said.
He also called on all Internet Protocol Television and all other broadcast stations that are streaming online to register with the commission to avoid disconnection
”Broadcasters should note that, having a DTT or FM license doesn’t warrant a broadcaster to stream online; they are two different licenses,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the draft code of practice that will regulate the practice of interactive computer service operations, which include online activities across all social media platforms developed by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, may also negatively affect press freedom in the country.
According to a statement by the federal government, the NITDA in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to develop a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries; Online Platforms, in collaboration with relevant regulatory agencies and stakeholders, is set to make a public presentation of the draft Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries for further review and input.
Although there has been an outright rejection of the federal government proposed plans, the NBC, which is the regulatory agency has continued to enforce the code.
Realnews recalled that during the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, workshop held in Lagos on August 4, 2022, the fine imposed on Trust TV by the NBC was described as unacceptable.
Isa Mustapha, NGE President said at the workshop that the Guild was totally opposed to the fine of N5 million imposed on Trust TV by the NBC.
“The government cannot be the accuser and the judge in matters relating to it.
“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.
He 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.
According to him, 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,” he added.
A.ITags: AIT Isa Mustapha Malam Balarabe Ilelah NBC Nigerian Guild of Editors NITDA President Muhammadu Buhari Raypower Rhythm FM Silverbird