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Saturday, 1 May 2021

NBC: Where Channels TV erred

 NBC: Where Channels TV erred

SIR: Section 39 (1) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria reads: ‘“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information

without inference”. Press freedom entails that the right of communication and expression through the electronic and print media be upheld. It connotes that such freedom has the absence of interference from an overreaching state but its preservation has to be sought through constitutional or legal scrutiny.

The National Broadcasting Commission, established by Section 1 of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, vets and controls the conduct of broadcast houses. Indeed, the commission, set up on August 24, 1992, by Decree 38 of 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 primarily regulates and controls the broadcast industry in Nigeria.

There are broadcasting codes handed out to terrestrial and non-terrestrial TV stations, which they must adhere to. Channels Television directly contacted and interviewed a proscribed organization’s spokesperson on air, during which he was allowed to pour invectives on the Nigerian state and tools of sovereignty. Two laws were breached in the broadcasting code: Having contact with an outlawed group and the spokesman making inciting and inflammatory statement live on air without reprimand from the media house. This is not freedom but a descent to press inanity. Channels TV ought to know better.

The question of whether the proscription of IPOB is fair or not is not for the NBC to decide. It is the legal prerogative of the proscribed group to seek redress in the court of the land and until that is done, it remains an outlawed group. NBC operates under the dictates of the constitution and its own broadcasting rules. Media houses are aware of this and as such cannot be moved by public sentiments.

Some critics of the IPOB proscription have opined that the Nnamdi Kanu-led organization is a bloodless one that is focused on the rights of self-determination. The 1999 Constitution doesn’t give room for any form of secession which is the raison d’etre behind the formation of IPOB. Some advocates of restructuring have clamoured for a secessionist clause to be in the constitution similar to what the Action Group clamoured for in the 1960 Independence Constitution which was rejected by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello. Until that happens, secession is outlawed as well as all groups that are its apologists and so the media has to set its boundaries when eliciting information from such groups as the Fourth Estate of the Realm with the onerous duty of holding the government to account shouldn’t be seen to be sturdily backing any form of illegality.

Yes, there are underlying issues of high-handedness of the Nigerian government; the tendency to muzzle dissenting voices, using the instruments of the Nigerian state but it should not cover our objectivity to see a breach where it is. There was a breach and it is good Channels TV has apologized for its goof and accepted responsibility for its actions but the suspension of the station and the fine imposed by NBC is not a gag on press freedom. Press freedom has its own limitation, just like other freedoms in the world.

Treason is not a minor offence and the action of Channels TV was akin to being sympathetic to it. In an era of the unregulated new media where online newspapers spring up faster than the speed of light, they may be tempted to follow suit to begin to conduct interviews with proscribed groups in order to trend and get more views which will spell doom in no small measure.

Channels TV, a multiple award winning television station with over two decades of robust broadcasting should learn the salient lessons and like the Biblical prodigal son should go and sin no more. THE NATION



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