A civil society organisation, MEDIA Rights Agenda (MRA), has asked the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the fines imposed on a television station and three pay TV platforms.
NBC had on August 3 announced that the owners of DSTV, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV) and NTA-Startimes Limited would pay N5 million each as fines.
The Commission said the broadcast platforms were sanctioned for airing a documentary by the BBC Africa Eye titled ‘Bandits Warlords of Zamfara’, which the body claimed glorifies banditry and undermines national security in Nigeria.
The NBC also fined Trust-TV Network Limited N5 million for its documentary titled, ‘Nigeria’s Banditry – The Inside Story’.
The regulatory body accused them of contravening the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Sixth Edition, with emphasis on paragraphs 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11.2.
Reacting to the development, MRA, in a statement released by Programme Director Ayode Longe on August 4, described NBC’s action as unconstitutional and repressive.
The organisation threatened to take legal action against the NBC if the sanctions are not reversed.
“We have no doubt that the decision to sanction the platforms and television station was actually taken by the Federal government and is being enforced through the NBC in an effort to punish them for portraying the Government in bad light as it is clear that the government is embarrassed by its inability to address the challenge posed by the so-called bandits to the safety and security of Nigerians and members of the public at large,” the statement said.
According to MRA, the TV station and the pay platforms acted in line with provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
“It is our view that the reporting by the television station and the platforms is consistent with role assigned to the media by Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people, in this case, with respect to the security and welfare of the people.
“It is ironic that while the government regularly dialogues with the so-called bandits and pays them obscene amounts in cash as ransom, thereby enabling their activities further, it has chosen to sanction media platforms for merely reporting on the bandits and the security challenge that they pose to citizens.”
The civil society organisation urged the NBC to avoid being used as a tool for the censorship of broadcasters and broadcast platforms, as against internationally established norms and standards for media regulators.
“We find it abhorrent that the NBC is once again the law maker, the accuser, the prosecutor, the judge and the enforcer, all at the same time, contrary to the well-established principle of law that no one should be a judge in his own cause. It is even more repugnant that the NBC has accused the broadcast station and platforms of offenses which constitute crimes under our laws and has proceeded to find them guilty of these crimes, thereby usurping the function of the courts under our Constitution,” the statement added.
MRA advised NBC to seek proper guidance concerning its functions as the regulatory authority for broadcasting in Nigeria.