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Advocacy group berates NBC over Channels TV, Inspiration FM fines

Says fine is anti-people and impinges on the right of Nigerians to receive information

The Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) has berated the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over the N5,000,000.00 fine imposed on Channels Television and Inspiration FM each.

CASER’s condemnation was contained in a letter addressed to NBC Director General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba.

The letter, signed by CASER Executive Director, Barrister Frank Tietie, reads in full:

Human rights lawyer, Frank Tietie
Human rights lawyer, Frank Tietie

“Dear Sir,

Imposition of excessive fines against people and impinges on the right of Nigerians to receive information

Request to urgently rescind the fines of N5,000,000.00 each, imposed by the NBC on Channels Television and Inspiration FM for being excessive, oppressive, amounting to intimidation of the media houses and constitutes a violation of the right of Nigerians citizens to receive information

The Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER) is concerned about the growing systemic onslaught against the right of Nigerians to receive information that is free from undue regulation and fear of punishment.

CASER maintains and holds the view that the recent imposition of the fines of N5,000, 000.00 each on Channels Television and Inspiration FM is indirectly against the Nigerian people.

The fines against the two media houses are excessive, oppressive and generally targeted at intimidating Nigerian media houses.

It is therefore important to note that the overall goal of regulation is not punishment but essentially involves setting generally acceptable standards which these two stations and many others have adhered to over the years.

The isolation of the incidents of broadcasting an interview of a member of a proscribed body, as being the basis for violating the fundamental right of Nigerians to a free press with free flow of information, including opinions, is defeatist to the sociocultural and political development of Nigeria.

Ensuring plurality of opinions however critical of a government is a major role of the press (including radio & television) as provided and guaranteed by Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

Deterring Nigerian media houses unnecessarily, by such huge punitive fines will eventually shield government and its operators from being irresponsible and overly corrupt.

Therefore, when media houses ultimately become so afraid to report news, stories and opinions as they see them, out of fear of punishment by the NBC, it is the Nigerian people who suffer lack of important and accurate information. CASER will resist this.

These affected two media houses, especially Channels TV, through its ‘Politics Today’ programme, have shown serious responsibility in many years past, in broadcasting news and views that have been greatly helpful to the development of Nigeria.

Channels TV’s ‘Politics Today’ is undoubtedly, presently, one of Nigeria’s most highly rated and watched programmes on-air and online. It is actually a pride of Nigerian broadcasting. The show has demonstrated strict compliance to broadcasting standards over the years.

Why then would the NBC slam a whole N5,000,000.00 fine against the station for perceived infraction of the NBC Code by the programme, simply for interviewing someone who is not likeable in the opinion of the Nigerian government?

Such a decision is more judicial than administrative and the NBC does not have such powers without recourse to an order of court especially, as and when it affects the rights of other Nigerians.

The Right to Receive Information is provided and guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights [Ratification & Enforcement Act] Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

CASER therefore urges the NBC to immediately rescind the fines against the two media houses because they are indirectly against the Nigerian people.

CASER has been in the forefront and possesses a history of promoting and preserving the right of citizens of Nigeria to free flow of information, by upholding constitutional and statutory standards of free speech.

Therefore, CASER will not hesitate to challenge the NBC in court, including the stations involved, to ensure that information that is shared by the Nigerian media is free from all forms of fear and intimidation arising from oppressive regulation by the NBC and other government agencies.

Any media media House that is afraid to report news and views as they see them in their opinion should close shop: And those media houses which report accurate information should not be stifled with excessive punitive fines whenever government is uncomfortable with reported facts.

Nigerian citizens have a right to receive uncensored information while a responsible government should work hard to serve the Nigerian people in an atmosphere of freedom of information and not be afraid of truth.”

The letter was copied to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Country Director, Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), and Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

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