•Nigerian media owners unveil national complaints commission
Segun James, Ayodeji Ake in Lagos and Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), yesterday, in a form of appeal, advised the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to apply caution when acting on petitions of political parties against media organisations.
Also, as part of efforts to strengthen public confidence in the media, the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), the umbrella body for media practice in the country, has inaugurated the board of the National Media Complaints Commission (NMCC), otherwise known as the National Ombudsman.
The NHRC appeal came against the backdrop of the sanction against Channels TV by the NBC after a petition was written against the news channel by one of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC) spokesperson for airing an interview with the Vice Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Alhaji Datti Baba Ahmed that was allegedly inciting.
Channels TV was slammed a penalty of N5 million by the broadcast control body and further warned against airing any content that could incite the public to violence.
However, speaking at the monthly review of the NHRC’s Mobilising Voters for Elections (MOVE) Programme, yesterday, in Abuja, the Commission’s Project Coordinator, Hilary Ogbonna, noted that freedom of the press was an important feature of democracy and actions that may be construed as gagging the press must be avoided.
He noted that the manner in which some media organisations were recently sanctioned by the government over complaints made by political parties was creating negative narrative on the democratic process in the country.
He said the speed at with which sanction was imposed on Channels TV station just five days after a complaint was made through a petition against it was wrong, adding that such quick action was capable of sending wrong signal to the public and international community that thorough investigation was not carried out.
According to him, the NHRC was not questioning the rights of sister government agencies to carry out their statutory responsibilities, but said caution should be exercised when it involves petitions written by politically exposed persons.
He said as the body saddled with the protection of human rights in the country, the NHRC found it expedient to advise sister government agencies to promote human rights in the country, rather than impede rights of citizens.
The NHCR Project Coordinator added that due to the crucial roles played by the media, sanction should be the last resort when it concerns the sector.
In his opening speech, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the briefing was the fourth in the series of the efforts of NHRC to bring the media up to speed with what was being done to ensure that those tracked to have made hate speech, violated the rights of citizens and other actions that hindered access and participation at the just concluded elections were brought to book.
He called on Nigerians and others living in the country to continue to maintain peace, saying it was the only way to engender development of the country.
The NHRC boss thanked the media, the Ford Foundation, UN bodies and other partners for the successes recorded so far in tracking those that undermine the just concluded elections.
Nigerian Media Owners Unveil National Complaints Commission
The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), the umbrella body for media practice in the country, has inaugurated the board of the National Media Complaints Commission (NMCC), otherwise known as the National Ombudsman.
The NMCC is made up of nine members. The National Ombudsman is being driven by the NPO which is made up of NPAN, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), and the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), along with other strategic media players and the civil society, in particular the MacArthur Foundation and Media.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the founder of the Vanguard Media Group, Mr. Sam Amuka-Pemu; Chairman THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mustapha Isah; President, Nigeria Union of Journalist, Chris Isiguzo; The Ombudsman, THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Kayode Komolafe, among several others.
The National Ombudsman, according to the President of NPO, Malam Kabir Yussuf, who is also the President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, would serve as an independent forum for resolving complaints about the press quickly, fairly and free of charge. They are also to maintain high standards of Nigerian Journalism and journalistic ethics, defend the freedom of the press and the rights of the people to know.
Yussuf, who stated this at the inauguration of the nine-man board which is headed by Mr. Emeka Izeze, former Managing Director of the Guardian Newspapers yesterday, said it, “will be watching the watchdog in deference to the dictum, that journalism is too important to be left to journalists alone.”
Others members of the commission drawn from the media, the bar, the academia, and civil society are: Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A. B Mahmoud; Deputy Vice Chancellor, (Academics) Paul University, Awka, Anambra State, Prof. Chinyere Stella Okunna; a Development Specialist and Country Director, Care International (Nigeria), Dr. Hussain Abdu; Editor-in-Chief.
There were also Diamond Publications Ltd. and Founder, Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), Mr. Lanre Idowu; Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo; a journalist, lawyer and arbitrator, Mrs. Dupe Ajayi-Gbadebo; Broadcaster, author and columnist, Mrs. Eugenia Abu, and Chair, House of Representatives Committee on Information.
Yussuf, said the inauguration of the body became necessary because there was need to regulate the press used by various interests, adding that although, “Radio and television are already regulated, some will say over-regulated, but print which is the oldest and Online which is the newest have escaped such control. The former warned by the lessons of history and the latter, by the amplitude of technology.”
He said the idea may, “sound like an attempt to sanctity the press, let me switch gear. We have our own faults enough. Some journalists seem all out to prove that their pen is indeed a sword for slaying real or imaginary enemies.”
He stressed that, “the Ombudsman will call such people to order! To appreciate the power of the press, it should be used for good, not for self-aggrandisement.
“To be effective, the physician has to heal himself before he can apply the cure to others.”
The commission would serve as an independent forum for resolving complaints about the press quickly, fairly, and free of charge; maintain high standards of Nigerian Journalism and journalistic ethics; and defend the freedom of the press and the rights of the people to know.
In his acceptance speech, the Chairman of the Ombudsman, Izeze, said the stakeholders had over the years fought for so long to keep the media unaffected by the political shenanigans of those in government at one time or the other in the country.
He said since the time of the military, there has been disdain for the media and people always look for how to keep the media in check.
“What has happened lately is that we (media practitioners) haven’t also been very fair to ourselves in keeping ourselves in check. Our responsibility primarily is not to come and gag the press, we will not do that. We think that we have to be fair to ourselves. We must always do the right thing.
“So, when the public is complaining, instead of waiting for the people who do not understand what this job entails to begin to put us down and to insist on doing it in their way for their selfish reason, you will accept that an Initiative such as this by the NPO, NPAN, NGE, NUJ and others, is something that is worth giving a shot.
“That is the only way we can keep our profession sane and keep it free of restrictions. People do not like their dirty stories being told in the public glare and there are too many dirty stories that have to be told particularly in our environment, to make progress,” the media expert said.
According to him, the job was to give the public a channel for seeking redress, hence, the Ombudsman.
“I thank you very much for the confidence, I assure you that with my colleagues here, we would attempt to do justice to your expectations and see how far we can go to help the media operate professionally.
“We will see how far we can go to help the media to observe some of those rules that we drew for ourselves and help the media to build what this nation needs.
“We cannot make progress in this nation without the media operating professionally. It is not possible.”
Izeze described the assignment as not being the most pleasant one because it involved checking colleagues, who said journalists were unruly and didn’t want another to control them.