THE International Press Centre (IPC) has condemned the N5 million fine slammed on Trust TV by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over a documentary on the activities of bandits.
The ICIR had reported that the NBC imposed the fine on Trust TV over the broadcast of a documentary on bandits terrorising Zamfara and other parts of the North-West.
Other organisations sanctioned by the NBC are NTA Startimes Nigeria Limited, DSTV, Telecom Satellite Limited.
They are to pay N5 million each for airing BBC Africa Eye’s documentary titled, ‘Bandit warlords of Zamfara’.
Reacting to the development on Wednesday in a statement by its Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, the IPC described the fine as “arbitrary”.
The organisation noted that the banditry ravaging Nigeria and daily putting the lives and property of the citizens in jeopardy was not a creation of the media.
Part of the statement read: “IPC is dismayed that 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 Trust TV, but one-sided hearing of the accusation by the Information Minister upon which the NBC acted.
“It is unacceptable that NBC, funded by tax payers 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.”
The IPC called on the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other professional bodies championing freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country to “rise in unison in condemnation of this new development and hostility by the government”.
According to the statement, Executive Director of the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, demanded the reversal of the fine.
“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”, Arogundade said.
Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via firstname.lastname@example.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.