THE Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has accused the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of breaching the principle of fair hearing in sanctioning Television Continental (TVC) and Arise TV.
The NBC had on February 3 fined the two television stations the sum of N2 million, each, for allegedly airing inflammatory, derogatory, and unfair comments at campaign rallies of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, the Coalition, in a statement released on Monday, February 13, condemned the sanctions imposed on the two television stations.
Noting that the sanctions did not follow due process, the Coalition called on the NBC to drop the fines imposed on TVC and Arise TV.
According to the Coalition, the sanctions encroached on the idea of a free press and free speech.
Parts of the statement read: “While it is clear that hate speech is antithetical to professional journalistic practices and inconsistent with democratic principles of inclusivity, equity and justice, it is also essential to understand that allegations of hate speech should not be made lightly and any organisation or individual accused of hate speech should be given adequate opportunity to defend themselves against the charge.
“For an evolving democracy like Nigeria’s, the airing of hate speech by a broadcaster would obviously be considered a huge breach of the agreed standards of professional journalism practice, which are essential for the mass media to effectively perform their core function of informing society on a range of issues and ensuring all shades of opinions are given access to the media platform.
“However, it is equally imperative that in addressing any allegation that a broadcaster had violated established professional standards by broadcasting hate speech, a regulatory authority must be guided by the constitutional and democratic principles of fair hearing, equity, justice and fair play.
“The suspicion that a broadcaster has aired hate speech cannot give NBC the right and power to be the accuser, prosecutor, and judge.
“We are of the opinion that the NBC, having played the role of the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in this instance, has breached the right to fair hearing for the media organisations that it has sanctioned.
“If indeed hate speech was the case, as alleged, reported, the decent and appropriate thing to do would have been to prosecute the alleged culprits in a court of law vested with jurisdiction in such a matter, rather than making a scapegoat out of the media organisations that were performing their professional and constitutional functions and merely provided an opportunity for citizens to air their views in the context of an electioneering campaign.”
The Coalition further called on the Federal Government and the NBC to work with other stakeholders in the media and broadcasting sectors to carry out a review of the ‘Hate speech Prohibition’ provision in the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
The Coalition further noted that the interpretation given to hate speech in the current Broadcasting Code is offensive to free speech, which is an essential part of the democratic process.
The ICIR reported that a civil society organisation, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), had accused the NBC of succumbing to the control of a “politically partisan” Minister of Information to cow broadcasting stations in Nigeria in an effort to prevent them from criticising government officials and powerful political figures.
The Media Rights Agenda also urged the National Assembly to launch an investigation into the regulatory activities of the NBC.