Condemnations have trailed the imposition of a N10 million fine on Trust TV as well MultiChoice Nigeria limited for broadcasting documentaries about the insecurity in the country’s North-west region.
Trust TV ran a documentary titled “Banditry: The inside story” in March while the BBC Africa Eye produced another one titled “The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara” (https://youtu.be/g-fPEHUqhyA) that ran on the YouTube, DStv, Telcom Satellite Limited (TSTV), NTA Startimes – owned by MultiChoice Nigeria Limited.
Trust TV and MultiChoice would now pay a fine of N5 million, according to the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
It’s baseless, authoritarian – IPC, CWPPF
While condemning the fine, the Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom, (CWPPF), said the fine on the television stations was a move to stifle the press.
In a statement signed by its Programme Officer, Stephanie O. Adams-Douglas, Media Freedom, described the ban as baseless and authoritarian.
“The CWPPF regards the fine slammed on these broadcast services as a baseless and authoritarian move to stifle the press. In many cases, threats of violence and attacks against journalists are not properly investigated, yet the NBC thinks this fine is the best way to constrain the Nigerian media from carrying out its mandate,” the statement said.
The CWPPF said the decision to impose a fine on the media houses could discourage journalists and embolden criminals.
“This continuous impunity emboldens the perpetrators of the crimes and at the same time has an undesirable discouraging effect and obstructs journalists and their work. However, Nigerian journalists have remained dogged in exposing corruption, irregularity and security that has affected millions of Nigerians. This kind of unwarranted sanctions against journalists impedes the free flow of information.
“CWPPF, therefore, condemns this sanction in its entirety and calls on the National Broadcasting Commission to withdraw it without delay. We shall continue to oppose all forms of attacks on human rights and press freedom in Nigeria and across the world and hold the government, individuals and organizations accountable,” the statement added.
On its part, the International Press Centre (IPC), said it was surprised by the fine.
The IPC said despite warning the Nigerian government not to impose the fine after the threat by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, the government went ahead to take the decision.
The centre said by taking the decision, the Nigerian government has now constituted “itself to the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.”
In the statement, signed by Melody Lawal, the centre’s Press Freedom Officer, the IPC said: “the Federal Government through the NBC has shamefully done that, 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 Tust TV, but one-sided hearing of the accusation by the Information Minister upon which the NBC acted.
“It is unacceptable that NBC, funded by taxpayers 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,” Ms Lawal said.
The statement quoted the Executive Director of the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, saying banditry was not created by the media.
“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,” Mr Arogundade said.
The IPC said the press must be allowed to continue carrying its function of holding the government to account.
“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 fulfil its own part of the constitutional bargain by guaranteeing the lives and security of the people.”
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