The Nigerian Broadcast Commission has threatened to sanction a Lagos-based television station, TV Continental, for broadcasting the ongoing Occupy Nigeria protests live, in what appears an attempt to gag media organizations and curtail critical coverage of the ongoing protests against government’s cut on fuel subsidy.
In a letter to the station, the NBC warned it to stop live broadcasts of the nationwide protests or face sanctions. NBC is asking that TVC censor its broadcast to avoid the deep criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan by labour leaders and civil society activists.
Since Monday when organized labour began a crippling strike and massive protests demanding government to reverse fuel prices which doubled overnight January 1, TVC has consistently given live coverage to protest rallies and speeches delivered during the protests.
“They want us to censor what we air live,” an official of the TV told Premium Times. “They said we should be careful and professional in our coverage and that if we air caustic speeches against the President and the administration, we would face appropriate sanction.”
The management of the organization however denied any wrongdoing, say they would continue with the live broadcasts of the protests.
Spokesperson of the NBC, Maimuna Jimada, could not be reached to comment for this story.
Since the commencement of rallies against the cut on fuel subsidy policy began on January 2, government-owned broadcast stations have tried to play down the protests.
Until Thursday morning when some protesters besieged the Nigerian Television Authority’s head office on the Island in Lagos, forcing the management to air clips from protests – in their presence – the station has largely ignored the huge demonstrations across the country and had concentrated on a massive propaganda campaign for government.
The protests, which have seen Nigerians question government’s ineptitude and lack of accountability before large crowds and streaming cameras, have polarized the Nigerian media along pro-government and pro-people lines.
Some protesters have branded the African Independent Television, AiT, an anti-people station, which has sided more with government in the current impasse. In anger, a group of protesters massed at the gate of the Alagbado headoffice of the station, throwing pebbles at its infrastructures to protest perceived pro-government reporting.
The protesters claim AIT has been pro-government and has not devoted equal amount of time to airing all sides to the crisis.
The commission say it will not hesitate to apply “necessary sanctions” if TVC persists with the live broadcasts.
Nigeria has a relatively free media freedom, enhanced by the extensive use of social media platforms, but the government still reserves a great control over the media through subtle cajoles and patronages.