THE opposition People’s Democratic Party and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have kicked against the suspension of Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
The ICIR had reported how the TV station was suspended and asked to pay N5 million for allowing the spokesperson of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Emma Powerful to make secessionist and inciting declarations without caution.
The regulator accused the news channel of allowing the guest speaker to make derogatory, false and misleading statements about the Nigerian Army, despite being proscribed by a court of law.
Reacting, the PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, described the suspension as draconian
The party stressed that, without prejudice to the issues raised against Channels Television, the reported hasty clampdown, without the benefit of caution, was suggestive of intolerance and high-handedness by the regulatory body.
The PDP said such disposition could be counter-productive and heighten the already tense situation in the nation.
It, therefore, urged the NBC to review the punitive measure on the media house as well as scale-up system-friendly measure that would ensure best practices in information dissemination in our country.
In a similar vein, SERAP, through its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, has urged the Federal Government and the NBC to immediately reverse what it called the ‘unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary’ suspension of the station without any legal basis whatsoever.
SERAP, which vowed to contest the suspension through the court should it not reversed within 48-hours, said the action “is yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices.”
It urged the government and NBC to lift the suspension and uphold the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom.
“This is a new low in Nigeria’s protection of freedom of expression, and the ability of independent media to function in the country. The suspension of Channels Television is detrimental to media freedom, and access to information, and the Federal Government and NBC must immediately reverse the decision.” parts of SERAP’s statement had read.
“Media freedom and media plurality are a central part of the effective exercise of freedom of expression and access to information. The ability to practice journalism free from undue interference, to cover diverse views are crucial to the exercise of many other rights and freedoms.
“The media has a vital role to play as ‘public watchdog’ in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role. The Federal Government and NBC should stop targeting and intimidating independent media and voices.
“The government of President Buhari has a responsibility to protect Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”
It further noted that the suspension amounted to an arbitrary and unjust application of regulations against the media, saying that international standards allowed only official restrictions on the content of what the media could broadcast or print in extremely narrow circumstances.
SERAP added that Article 20 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria had ratified, required states to prohibit only advocacy constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It noted that restrictions must be clearly defined, specific, necessary, and proportionate to the threat to interest protected.
It called on President Muhammadu Buhari to caution the NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media houses and to respect the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.