Don’t Gag the Media, Sanwo-Olu Tells Politicians
* NGE urges journalists to uphold ethics, ensure quality content
* NBC’s fines imposed on DStv, NTA, others repressive, unconstitutional, says MRA
Segun James and Wale Igbintade
As the 2023 general elections draw closer, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has asked politicians and public office holders not to gag the media, saying press freedom was important in a democracy.
The governor said this at a workshop organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) with the theme: “Journalist and Digitalisation: the imperative of Good Corporate Governance,” held at Ikeja, Lagos.
Sanwo-Olu, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the workshop, said ensuring good corporate governance and self-regulation of the digital space would completely eradicate false and fake news.
He assured that his administration would continue to promote press freedom and corporate governance as well as an enabling environment for journalists in the state. He also urged media practitioners to always regulate their activities in the digital space.
“I stand with you (media practitioners) in solidarity; to say that, indeed, your profession is not just a noble one, but it’s the one that gives the general public an independent assessment; holding our governance and government accountable at all times. And so, we need to be very careful as politicians and public officers that we do not gag this profession (media) and do not unduly stifle free press.
“Our government understands and appreciates that press freedom is the way in which we can hold government accountable. But it is also the responsibility of all of us here to ensure that we understand the thin line; and also self-regulate our activities.
“I cannot agree less with the President of the NGE that says that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission should not only be independent, it should be equipped with men of impeccable character and integrity that can work like the Oxfam of this world and indeed sanction erring people but give freedom for all of you to do your work,” the governor said.
Sanwo-Olu stressed the need for media practitioners to self-regulate, even as he urged them to work towards the complete eradication of fake and false news.
“Regarding my view about corporate governance, it is also to ensure that in the digital space we eradicate completely within the profession false news and fake news.
“People sometimes rush to post something without doing proper due diligence to verify what they are posting and ask themselves what damage would I do if they found out what I posted is not completely true.
“You must be a bit more circumspect and know that once information is out there, you cannot retrieve it. That in itself puts a lot of professional pressure on whoever that is posting any report,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu also sought continuous support from the media for his administration.
“I have enjoyed working with all of you and I am looking forward to enjoying more in the remaining part of my four years tenure. And if all of you feel so compelling during the election, I will also not mind being your governor again for another tenure,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mustapha Issa, said the media would not succumb to pressure from the government to determine the people’s right to information.
He said the situation where the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that reports to the Minister of Information would also be the one to unilaterally imposing fines on broadcast stations for unfavorable reports was tantamount to gagging the media.
The NGE President who urged media owners to embrace good corporate governance and accountability, said the role of scrutiny of the media should not be that of the government alone, adding that the media should not be threatened.
Also speaking, a veteran journalist and the Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Lanre Idowu, said digitalisation had brought more opportunities to journalism but has equally brought to the fore the need to uphold ethics, and quality content.
He said journalists must decide whether to embrace digital platforms or be out of business.
NBC’s Fines Imposed on DStv, NTA, Others Repressive, Unconstitutional, Says MRA
Meanwhile, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to reverse its decision to imposing N5 million fines respectively on a television station and three pay-TV platforms for allegedly undermining Nigeria’s national security by airing documentaries on banditry.
MRA described NBC’s action as wrong and unjustifiable.
The NBC had announced in a statement on August 3, that it had sanctioned Multichoice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV; TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV); and NTA Startimes Limited for airing a documentary by the BBC Africa Eye, titled ‘Bandits Warlords of Zamfara,’ which the commission claimed glorified bandits and undermined national security.
It also fined Trust-TV Network Limited N5 million for its documentary ‘Nigeria’s Banditry – The Inside Story’, accusing it of contravening the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Sixth Edition, especially Paragraphs 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11.2.
Owing to these, MRA Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, however, stated in a statement: “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 (a) 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 MRA statement asserted that the documentary was consistent with the role assigned to the media by Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to 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,” said MRA.
Longe criticised the NBC for allowing itself to be used by the federal government as a tool for censorship of broadcasters and broadcast platforms when it should be an independent regulatory authority following internationally established norms and standards for media regulators.
“It is even more repugnant that NBC has accused the broadcast station and platforms of offences 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,” stressed the MRA.
Longe called on NBC to seek appropriate guidance in the performance of its functions as the regulatory authority for broadcasting in Nigeria to stop bringing the country into ridicule before the international community.