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EndSARS: Fining of TV Stations by NBC, an Attempt to Gag Press –Ex US captain

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*Calls for immediate reforms in Commission

John Chukwu

A former United States Army Captain, Bishop C. Johnson (SW/AW) has faulted the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) fining of three media stations describing it as an attempt to gag the media and deter them from their constitutional responsibilities of holding government to account.

The NBC on Monday fined Channels Television, AIT and Arise TV N3 million each over their what it tagged “unprofessional coverage” of the EndSARS protests and the crisis that followed it.

Armstrong Idachaba, Acting Director-General, NBC accused the stations of airing unverified images of the alleged Lekki toll gate shootings from social media.

Johnson argued that the right of citizens to be informed is paramount and should not be regulated out of existence. He noted that the media space continues to evolve and evolve rapidly, but the NBC has deliberately refused to follow up and update itself inline with the rapid evolution in the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

“To say that media houses cannot use video footages from social media which showed what people had described as massacre of Nigerian youths by men alleged to be members of Nigerian Military is absurd”, he said.

Johnson, who is also a Defense and National Security Strategist, a National Commentator, Rights and Social Activist, pointed out that the NBC in not following in steps with the evolutions in the industry it is supposed to regulate, should as a matter of urgency be reformed to meet the current realities in the industry.

“The social media has come to stay and that’s a stack reality of our time. The earlier our government understands that fact and finds a way to leverage on it, the better for us.

“The NBC should find ways to allow the use of these type of video footages however, with caveats that read: Amateur Video: AIT, Channels TV or Arise News has not been able to independently verify the accuracy or authenticity of the content of this footage or source. This is what is obtainable in other countries where the right of citizens to be informed is paramount and respected”, he said.

The full statement reads

ENDSARS PROTEST: NBC ERRED IN FINING MEDIA NETWORKS, NEEDS IMMEDIATE REFORMS

Ordinarily, constitutions are meant to stipulate the powers of government, duties of citizens, state penalties, for erring parties, and above all, provide protection for all citizens. The constitution may be written or unwritten depending on the choice of a country.

Similarly, they are made, re-enacted, and reviewed to catch up with the realities of an ever evolving and constantly changing society. For the basis and inspiration for any nation is its constitution, for it reveals the principles of its founders, and gives direction to their successors.

Nigeria, as a country has had many constitutions. The Clifford’s 1922; Richard’s 1946; McPherson’s 1952; down to the independent (1960) constitution; Republican 1963; 1979; and the present 1999 which is an amendment of the 1979 constitution.

The existence of these constitutions defines the society with many elements; the media, police, government, armed forces, citizenry among others. Their duties and obligations are also clearly stated.

The press, which is an integral and indispensable element of the society, exists for the society. It derives its powers to function from the constitution. As stipulated in Chapter II section 22 of the 1999 constitution, hence:

The press, radio, television, prints, and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.

This provision implies that the press shall be a watchdog over the excesses of government, and shall ensure that government delivers on its promises to the people. The government on the one hand shall ensure that the press informs the people about its programmes and actions.

The free society which comprises of people of different ethnic, religious, socio-economic backgrounds are also entitled to free information, as such chapter II section 39 subsection (1) of the 1999 constitution states:

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

Subsection (2) states that:

Without prejudice to the generality of subsection I of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.

This section includes among the fundamental rights of the citizens, the right to know and be heard by all. It also stipulates the duties of both the press and the citizens. However, the fact that this provisions defines their duties (press & citizen), does not in any way guarantee their going beyond the constitution to seek information and disseminate same and this is where regulatory bodies which derive their powers not from the constitution in itself, instead from laws and acts of the National Assembly come in.

The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC was set up on August 24, 1992 by Decree 38 0f 1992 later amended as an Act of the National assembly by Act 55 of 1999 and now known as National Broadcasting Commission Laws of the Federation 2004, CAP N11 to among other responsibilities, regulate and control the broadcasting industry in Nigeria.

In exercising this function, the Commission in its advisory capacity to the Federal Government ought to regularly adopt scientific research methods to gather data and analyze trends in line with the dynamism of the industry and advise government accordingly.

The key points in the above premise is that the Commission ought to regularly adopt scientific research and analyze trends in line with the dynamism of the media and broadcasting industry and this is where the NBC has failed completely.

The media space continues to evolve and evolve rapidly, however the NBC has deliberately refused to follow up and update itself inline with the rapid evolution in the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

In all of these discussions, the right of the people to be informed is paramount and should not be regulated out of existence which appears to be what the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC has done.

The NBC in not following in steps with the evolutions in the industry it is supposed to regulate, should as a matter of urgency be reformed to meet the current realities in the industry.

Nigeria as a country does not exist in isolation, it’s a part of comity of nations and should constantly and consistently look to other nations with a view of updating itself with current realities of our time.

The social media has come to stay and that’s a stack reality of our time. The earlier our government understands that fact and finds a way to leverage on it, the better for us.

To say that media houses cannot use video footages from social media which showed what people had described as massacre of Nigerian youths by men alleged to be members of Nigerian Military is absurd.

The NBC should find ways to allow the use of these type of video footages however, with caveats that read: Amateur Video: AIT, Channels TV or Arise News has not been able to independently verify the accuracy or authenticity of the content of this footage or source. This is what is obtainable in other countries where the right of citizens to be informed is paramount and respected.

Bishop C. Johnson (SW/AW) is a former United States Army Captain, a Defense and National Security Strategist, a National Commentator, Rights and Social Activist


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