The prominent pro-democracy and Not-for-profit body- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the hierarchy of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for introducing unconstitutional and unlawful policy seeking to muzzle Press Freedom just as it says the new Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission is a surrogate of military dictatorship and therefore unfit to hold such a strategic position which he is using to destabilise constitutional democracy.
The Rights group said categorically that the media houses will be in violation of the Nigerian Constitution should they Kowtow to the illegal policy direction by the National Broadcasting Commission even as the Rights group has called on the management of the National Broadcasting Commission to get focused on carrying out their core mandate and stop poking their noses into the modus operandi of the newsrooms which ought to be independent of the government going by the plethora of provisions of the GrundNorm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended.
The Rights group recalled that the National Broadcasting Commission had ordered television and radio stations in Nigeria not to divulge “details” of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in their reports.The regulator specifically directed radio and television stations not to “glamourise the nefarious activities of insurgents” during their daily Newspaper Reviews. As an unwritten custom, broadcast stations in Nigeria review Newspaper headlines daily before their breakfast shows.
HURIWA recalled that the NBC, in a letter dated July 7, 2021, issued to television and radio stations, stressed the need for “caution” by broadcasters while reporting security challenges in the country.
The letter titled, ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah.
HURIWA quoted the National Broadcasting Commission as stating as follows: “Headlines of most Newspapers on a daily basis are replete with security topics. While bringing information on security to the doorsteps of Nigerians is a necessity, there is a need for caution as too many details may have an adverse implication on the efforts of our security officials who are duty-bound to deal with the insurgency.The Commission, therefore, enjoins broadcasters to collaborate with the government in dealing with the security challenges by;…Not giving details of either the security issues or victims of these security challenges so as not to jeopardise the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers and other security agents. It cited provisions of Sections 5.4.1(f) and 5.4.3 of the NBC Code for the directive”.
The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group however affirmed that: “Media freedom otherwise known as freedom of expression is a foundation for many other rights and is a cornerstone for strengthening the principle and practice of constitutional democracy. Those who should know have emphatically stated that Freedom of expression is a human right and forms Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
HURIWA submits that based of legal scolarship, authorities and a plethora of decided cases and case laws, Freedom of expression covers freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and gives individuals and communities the right to articulate their opinions without fear of retaliation, censorship or punishment.
“HURIWA wonders how the NBC wants to ductate how electronic media outlets tell their verified stories by illegally asking them to modify the FACTS OF THEIR FINDINGS AS REPORTERS just as the Rights group maintained that the right to freedom of expression wouldn’t be worth much if the authorities also had the right to imprison anyone who disagrees with them.
“This is because as correctly espoused by constitutional scholars, an effective media also depends on the legal basis that freedom of expression gives the right to function and report freely, sometimes critically, without threat or fear of punishment. Truly and indeed, freedom of expression is not an absolute right: it does not protect hate speech or incitement to violence which most media houses are aware of and as professionals have always adhered to. HURIWA agrees that many other rights which are intrinsic to our daily lives in any given constitutional democracy build on and intersect with this protection for free thought and individual expression.”
The Media affiliated Civil Society Organization asserts categorically that media freedom or freedom of expression covers everything from satire to political campaigns to conversations in your own home. It’s a fundamental human right which allows for citizens to speak freely and without interference. The attempt to muzzle Press Freedom by the federal government must be actively resisted and totally condemned.
In a media statement by the National coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA quoted some of the key constitutional provisions that the NBC directive offends: “Section 22 : “The press, radio, television 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. Section:
1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria 39. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
HURIWA has therefore asked the media houses to disobey the unconstitutional directive of the NBC or else they will lose listeners and followers since Nigeria is not like China whereby there is communism and absolute tyranny of government against the civil society.
HURIWA has also asked the media houses to partner credible civil rights bodies to challenge these dictatorial and oppressive illegal tendencies and characters of the National Broadcasting Commission before the competent Courts of law just as the Rights group believes that the court system in the exercise of their constitutional powers enshrined in section 6 of the Nigerian Constitution will be impartial, objective and independent to safeguard media freedoms to stop Nigeria from sliding into anarchy and dictatorship.