THE National Association of Seadogs (NAS) has condemned the recent action of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) against Channels Television over its interview with Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom.
NAS’ National President Abiola Owoaje, in a statement seen by The ICIR on Monday, described the commission’s attitude as overbearing and an attack on press freedom.
Owoaje expressed concerns over NBC’s incredible disdain for professional journalistic ethics, political neutrality, a blatantly partisan interpretation of its core mandate and a growing intolerance for freedom of expression by Nigerians.
He said that the commission’s predilection for suppressing views considered dissenting or critical of the government through harassment, and intimidation of broadcasting stations is unbecoming of the professionalism and patriotism expected of a regulatory agency.
According to him, NBC has reduced itself to an appendage of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and has awkwardly abandoned its core mandate to create an enabling environment for broadcasting to thrive in Nigeria.
He drew NBC’s action to the constitutional role of the media to hold government at all levels accountable on behalf of the people as enshrined in Section 22 of Nigeria’s Constitution.
He added that if the government fails in its primary responsibility to secure lives and property, it is incumbent on the media to hold it accountable to its constitutional responsibility.
“The government by its reaction to Governor Ortom’s interview has missed an opportunity to reassure the public of its good faith and positive intentions, on the serious security concerns of the citizenry,” he said.
“Rather than react to Governor Ortom’s allegations with irrefutable facts, it resorted to clandestine tactics to escape the necessary scrutiny of a democratic system that derives its powers from the designated sovereign will of the people.
“To be sure, it must be stressed that press freedom is not a matter of choice that is dependent on prescribed behaviour, but a fundamental pillar of a healthy democratic system.”
NAS urged the Buhari’s administration to concentrate on delivering on its mandate to secure the lives and “property of our people, promote their welfare, and stop chasing shadows by using government agencies to harass Nigerians.”
The ICIR had reported how the NBC in a letter queried the television station for violating six of its codes in an interview about insecurity and the recent action of President Buhari to resuscitate about 368 grazing reserves in 25 states.
NBC said Ortom’s comments were inciting, divisive and unfair.
Within 24 hours of receiving its letter, the commission asked Channels TV to explain why it should not be sanctioned.