By Chuks Onwudinjo
Members of National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, have come out to strongly condemn the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for sanctioning privately owned television stations – ARISE TV, Channels TV, and African Independent Television (AIT) over what the regulatory body described as a gross violation of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code. The NBC accused the television stations of broadcasting “unverifiable online video footages on the social media”.
NAS noted that the footages used by the concerned television stations were on-the-ground recordings which provided information similar to those published by international media organisations such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Cable News Network (CNN), which confirmed the firing of live ammunition at unarmed protesters, to which the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, confirmed to CNN recently that Close Circuit Television Camera(CCTV) mounted at the Toll plaza captured soldiers shooting at protesters.
In a terse press statement signed by the organisation’s worldwide president, Abiola Owoaje, and made available to THISDAY, the non-governmental organisation stated that, “The principle of press freedom underpins the right of the press to freely communicate and express opinions, and strictly implies the absence of interference or any form of inhibition of this freedom from the state.
“Only recently the NBC had cautioned broadcasters not to air information that will embarrass the government. Such threats are anathema to democratic practices and the principles of press freedom. The duty of the Nigerian press is not to protect the government, but to hold her accountable to the nation, her people and the constitution.”
“This most recent action of the Nigeria broadcast regulator, amounts to irresponsible press bullying and media crackdown. In the circumstances where federal government is yet to account for the nefarious activities that led to the dastardly shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza, federal government and her agencies lack the moral high ground to discredit on-the-ground citizen’s reports which have otherwise been verified by various international media. The sanctions are simply illegal, unjustifiable and unsustainable.” the statement said.
Seadogs noted that considering the critical importance of the role of a free press in democracies the world over, and the important need for transparency and protection of the right of the press to disseminate accurate information to the Nigerian people, they were calling on National Broadcasting Commission to immediately and unconditionally rescind its decision to sanction the Television Stations.
Seadogs are among the growing number of Nigerians calling on the ministry of information and the minister, to check the now seeming excesses of NBC.
Earlier in August, in what was generally criticised as muscling the free press, Chibuike Ogwumike, the zonal director at the NBC Lagos office relying on the extant provisions of the Nigeria Broadcast code that deals with Professional Rules, which states that “No broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder or hate, be repugnant to public feelings or contain an offensive reference to any person or organization, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity,” had sent a letter to news media warning them against messages that ‘insult’ Nigerian leaders.
Part of the letter read: “Monitoring activities indicate that in the recent time, some broadcast stations have abdicated their editorial responsibilities such that guests and callers on programmes abuse and insult leaders and those in authority freely and without caution.” He further admonished that
“To denigrate our elders and leaders in abusive terms is not our culture. We respect our leaders as a positive cultural value.”
Nigerians came hard on the NBC calling on the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, whom they accused together with his parastatal of consistent anti-press freedom pronouncements, to retrace their steps.