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The wrong channel – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics


Editorial

 

Like any other media outlet, Channels Television represents a feature of modern democracy: Freedom of expression. The National Broadcast Commission (NBC) took a swipe at the sacred landmark when it issued a query to the organisation.

The action drew the ire of the media establishment and lovers of free speech across the country. It also raised a spectre of discrimination by the NBC at a critical hour in Nigeria, with rise of religious and ethnic suspicions and recriminations.

The broadcast that precipitated the NBC threat of a hammer took place on April 25 at 7pm. The Channels anchor Seun Okinbaloye had interviewed Emma Powerful of the proscribed IPOB. Subsequently, NBC’s acting director Armstrong Idachaba wrote a letter to the station demanding an explanation for violating the NBC code.

The station obliged by writing an apology. That act of official contrition provided an irony for free speech in Nigeria. While the television station betrayed a cowed mien, the media world was up in arms. For many, the station took the path more as a business position to stay alive and less as professional conviction.

The president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists,(NUJ) Chris Isiguzo condemned it, saying, “The beauty of democracy is the right of the people to free expression.” The same sentiments were expressed by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP). They saw the action as undemocratic.

This has become more frequent under the aegis of the Buhari administration. Democracy calls for free expression, no matter from whom and about whom.

If, as Idachaba accused in his letter to Channels Television, the reasons for its action are because the broadcast carried misleading, false and derogatory statements, then the agency stands accused of hypocrisy and double standards. Media outlets aired on a number occasions the subversive words of Sheikh Abukabar Gumi, even praising bandits and kidnappers who have turned the country into a hostage menace. Yet, the NBC has not written a letter on account of the cleric’s incendiary effusions.

This makes the NBC look like it is pursuing ethnic or religious agenda against a particular section of the country. It must show its awareness of the sensitive moment.

During the EndSARS protests, the NBC also showed its regulatory dark face when it became fine happy.  Some of the media houses have expressed disgust over its punitive joy. But this attitude is not rooted in the sort of country we want to run in the 21st century.

It harks back to the military era. We may recall that the soldiers did not tolerate dissent of any sort, and they slammed their jackboots at the doors of media houses, including Newswatch, The Concord, The Punch and The Guardian. They were out of business for months at a time during the regimes of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. It was during the Babangida regime that the NBC Act came into being in 1992. Working on the premise that the minister of information must obey the diktat of the commander-in-chief of the regime, the document gave the minister carte blanch to give orders to the NBC.

That has not changed today. Hence, Lai Mohammed, the information minister, rather than follow the instinct of a democrat, has bowed to the hubris of a tyrant. The NBC is playing also the role of government entrepreneur as tax collector, bilking media houses, many of which operate in economically difficult environment. It must be noted that this habit of fining media houses predated the Buhari administration.

But what is important is free expression, not a return to the despotism of a bygone era.



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