NBC’s timely sanctions

Last week’s sanctioning of four major television stations in the country over hate speech by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is an ample demonstration of the Muhammadu Buhari government’s readiness and willingness to ensure that the ongoing electioneering is decorous and devoid of acrimony and violence.

The Director General of NBC, Malam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, said during a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), African Independent Television (AIT), Channels TV and Television Continental (TVC) were sanctioned for allowing hate speeches by politicians from both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be aired on their networks,.

Kawu said the letters to the affected organisations notifying them about the sanction were awaiting delivery in his office. He said the four stations failed to shut out chieftains of both parties who wilfully engaged in hate speeches during their political campaigns.

He said: “Broadcasters have huge responsibility of protecting and guiding our democracy; and we have a very huge responsibility of ensuring that we don’t promote violence or anything that can lead to it.

 “We have discovered that despite our repeated warnings some broadcast stations still allow politicians to let out hate speeches which are capable of throwing this country into crisis. We have prepared sanctions and the letters to this effect will be delivered to them soonest. These broadcast stations include NTA, AIT, Channels, TVC and some other radio stations.’’

He advised media houses against allowing themselves to be used by politicians, warning that this would affect their credibility. Kawu also warned broadcast stations in the country against picking results of the forthcoming elections from the social media.

He said the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) remained the only official source of election results, adding that any television or radio station that violated the order would be sanctioned. “The results of the 1983 elections were released before the commission released its results and this led to a lot of crises. This must not happen in 2019.”

The NBC director-general said: “For instance, on January 10, 2019, at the presidential campaign rally of the PDP broadcast by the AIT, the national chairman of the party accused INEC of rigging previous elections and threatened crisis if elections were rigged.

“Some of the excerpts were: ‘We want to warn INEC, all the previous elections you rigged and you escaped, the 2019 elections, you cannot escape unless you want to cause crisis in Nigeria. Let us warn Prof Yakubu; if you want to cause crisis in Nigeria, rig the elections.

If you want peace, elections must be free and fair.’ That is from The PDP. “At a live APC governorship rally held on Friday, January 3, 2019, and aired on the NTA, a stalwart of the APC, Rotimi Amaechi, was quoted as saying: ‘I will just continue to say the truth.

The truth I will tell you is that they are telling Nigerians that Nigerians are hungry. Indeed, if Nigerians are hungry, if these people left money they stole, will Nigerians be hungry? Exactly the $2bn that they stole. At least, I know about that one, we will not be here today.’

“The party chairman also added: ‘You must remember that the last PDP government turned Plateau workers to slaves and so on and so forth.’

“The expressions in the excerpts captured, can be seen to be abusive and not decent for broadcast contrary to certain sections of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code: 525, 533.”

 It is instructive that the National Peace Committee had on December 11, 2018, initiated a peace agreement which was signed by some presidential candidates including President Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.

According to the signed document, the parties were committed to run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels, pledging to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, “both by ourselves and by all agents acting in our names”.

They were also to refrain from making or causing to make in “our names or that of our party, any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the elections,” among other commitments.

Regrettably, in spite of the peace accord, which was signed in Abuja by virtually all of the nation’s 91 political parties including the two major contenders, APC and PDP, committing to a peaceful poll in 2019, some of them could still be found culpable of indulging in hate speech and promoting fake news. This, indeed, is not only reprehensible but it is also condemnable.

We commend the NBC for taking punitive actions against the erring television stations, considering the dangers hate speech and fake news pose to the forthcoming general elections in the country. The NBC should go beyond mere sanctions and prosecute the defaulting stations in order to serve as a deterrent to the contravention of the provisions of Sections 524 of the Code on Political Broadcast.

Leave a Reply