NBC N5m Fine, ‘A Naked Attempt to Gag the Media’ – Atiku
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 presidential election has described the new broadcasting code of the National Broadcasting Commission as an attempt to constrict free speech.
The former Vice President in a statement on Thursday, August 13, 2020, said the NBC is using the new code to gag the media.
There have been reactions over the hike in the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m as many Nigerians argued that the fine is against the freedom of speech.
In his statement, Atiku said the NBC is bent on constricting free speech in the guise of hate speech.
He said, “It is globally acknowledged that one of the core functions of the mass media is to inform the society on all ranges of issues, not even to the exclusion of national security issues.
“In many advanced democracies the world over, criminals on even wanted lists of law enforcement agencies have reached out to the media to express their opinions about the crimes that they had perpetrated and the media space was not denied to them.
“As a matter of fact, it seems somewhat contradictory that a country like ours, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information.
“It is not known if any society had won the war against terrorism by placing a restriction to access to information, in the way the NBC had done.”
Atiku also condemned the fine imposed on a radio station in Abuja, Nigeria Info over a comment by made by Obadiah Mailafia on the station.
Mailafia, a former presidential candidate had during an interview on the radio station on Monday, August 10, 2020, claimed he had an intelligence report that a state governor is a commander of Boko Haram.
Atiku said, “Whether or not what Dr Mailafia said on the radio station was a false claim, it is outside of the objectives of a responsible regulatory framework to sanction a radio station for a comment an individual made, more so that the personality in question, Dr Obadiah, had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents.
“If for any reason the authorities are not satisfied with his explanations, they are at liberty to prosecute him in court, but not to make a scapegoat of the media platform that provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.
“The claim by the management of NBC that ‘this (the penalty) is expected to serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations in Nigeria who are quick to provide a platform for subversive rhetoric and expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims, to desist from such’, is a naked attempt to gag the media in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the NBC Board has distanced itself from the new broadcasting code, saying the code was singlehandedly reviewed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture without involving any member of the board.
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