Massive Outrage Against NBC over Suspension of AIT, Raypower
NUJ Condemns Closure of AIT, Raypower
The Nigeria Union of Journalists is alarmed at the closure of AIT by the National Broadcasting Commission and believes that the action portends grave danger for Free Press and Independent Media.
Independent and Pluralistic Media in a democracy like Nigeria serve to promote democracy by their dissemination of authentic information and ensuring transparency in governance.
We condemn this closure over allegations of breach of 2004 Broadcasting Code and insist there are better ways of sanctioning media organisations that are found to have erred.
It will be helpful if the NBC will immediately reopen AIT to ensure that they continue to promote debate and opinions on issues that are of societal, economic and political importance to the nation. We expect them to do the needful in 24-hours.
Shuaibu Usman Leman
NGE Demands Revocation of Suspension Order of DAAR Licences
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) hereby condemns in very strong terms the indefinite suspension of the licences of the African Independent Television, AIT, and Ray Power by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The two stations belonged to Daar Communications Limited.
The Guild demands in clear terms the revocation of the suspension order as it runs contrary to the ideals of free speech and the fine tenets of press freedom. This is a case of Executive highhandedness and it paints our dear country in the darkest tar of dictatorship.
The Fourth Estate of the Realm remains the watchdog of society and any attempt to gag it in any guise is an affront on democracy and the people. The NBC must and should rescind this ignoble and despicable decision.
The Guild strongly believes the NBC action is a draconian forms of regulation, being out of tune with democratic principles.
The Guild is concerned about the violation of the constitutional rights of DAAR Communications and absence of media freedom, independence and the stifling of operations of media outfits which are preforming their roles as the watchdog of the Nigerian society.
The NGE condemns in strong terms the barbaric crackdown on the broadcast outfit and demands immediate cessation of this atrocious repression and excessive show of power by the NBC, whose duty is to regulate and not kill the media.
Muzzling the media and throwing thousands of Nigerians into the already saturated labour market should not be the trophy for good corporate governance of a regulator; it is something to be ashamed of and NBC should be ashamed at its action in a fledgling democracy in the 21st Century.
The Guild is strongly of the opinion that the NBC, in exercising its regulatory powers, should concentrate on implementing policies that will position Nigeria’s broadcasting to compete in the global spheres, rather than engage in witch-hunting and unnecessary show of excessive force.
The Guild hereby expresses its solidarity with the AIT/Raypower family, urging the staff and management to remain calm as the Guild liaises with and other media professionals as well as well meaning Nigerians to get justice.
The NGE appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to use his good offices to call NBC to order.
It is to be recalled that NBC had, before the 2019 general election, shut down Joy FM in Jos for violations of the broadcasting code. Last year, the NBC shut down Ekiti Radio/TV station. Shutting down stations and withdrawing licences are too extreme in the circumstance. There must be humane and saner ways to resolve disputes bordering on violation of the Broadcasting Code.
SERAP wants Buhari to prevail on NBC to lift suspension of AIT/Raypower
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “prevail on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately end the suspension of the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM, and to strengthen the independence of the NBC, if the country’s constitutional and international legal commitments to freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information are not to be undermined.”
NBC in a statement accused AIT/Raypower of embarking “on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government” and failing “to meet financial obligations to the regulatory authority.”
But SERAP in a statement today by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “These grounds are so subjective that if allowed to stand would seriously undermine freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information in the country. The mere fact that forms of expression on AIT/Raypower are considered by NBC to be insulting is not sufficient to justify the indefinite suspension. These grounds do not meet the requirements of legality, reasonableness, due process, necessity and proportionality.”
The organization said: “We are considering all the legal options to challenge this blatant illegality.”
The statement read in part: “The suspension amounts to unnecessary or disproportionate interference with freedom of expression and media freedom. The NBC ought to show a greater level of independence in the exercise of its statutory powers. Without independence, the NBC cannot satisfactorily perform its duties. If allowed to stand, this suspension may be perceived as a threat to restrict the media, and open the door to limitations on expression and media operations. This would be entirely inconsistent with constitutional provisions and international law, and undermine the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption.”
“The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party should provide a baseline standard for the operations of the NBC. Similar to Section 39 of the Constitution, Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified protects everyone’s right to hold opinions without interference, a right not subject to any restriction. Article 19(2) protects everyone’s right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and through any media.”
“The right to freedom of expression has long been understood to require States not only to avoid limitations on the right but also to promote an environment that is conducive to this fundamental freedom. This follows from the wording of the provision itself, which in addition to establishing an obligation to protect also establishes an obligation to promote.”
“The Human Rights Committee and other mechanisms have emphasized the importance of the State promoting media pluralism and ensuring media independence, as per General Comment 34, para. 40. In accordance with Article 19(3), any restriction imposed on this right must be provided by law and be necessary and proportionate to protect the rights or reputations of others, national security or public order, or public health and morals.”
“Article 20 calls for the prohibition of advocacy of national, religious or racial hatred that constitutes incitement to violence, hostility or discrimination. Nigeria is also bound by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
“Article 4 of the ICCPR permits derogations from Article 19(2) during declared states of emergency only where strictly necessary according to the exigencies of the situation. The right to freedom of opinion is not subject to derogation in ordinary circumstances or during states of emergency, as per General Comment 34, para. 5. The Human Rights Committee has held that measures derogating from the provisions of the Covenant must be of an exceptional and temporary nature.”
SERAP Deputy Director
Media NGOs Condemn Suspension of Daar Communications Licence, Urge NBC to Immediately Reverse the Decision
Three media sector non-governmental organizations today condemned yesterday’s suspension by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of the broadcast licence of Daar Communications Limited, owners of the African Independent Television (AIT), Ray Power FM radio and Faaji FM radio, describing the Commission’s action as unwarranted, unjust, and a violation of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
In their joint statement in Lagos signed by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA); Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Centre (IPC); and Mr. Richard Akinnola, Director of the Media Law Centre (MLC), the organizations accused the NBC of constituting itself into the accuser of Daar Communications, the prosecutor and the judge, in violation of the rules of natural justice and the right to fair hearing.
Announcing the suspension of Daar Communications’ broadcast license at a press briefing in Abuja on June 6, Mr. Is’haq Modibo Kawu, the NBC Director General, accused AIT/Raypower of embarking on the use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and the Commission.
Mr. Kawu said: “Recently, NBC monitoring reports on AIT and Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of Kakaaki, tagged, ‘Kakaaki Social’ where inciting comments like, ‘Nigeria is cursed,’ ‘we declare independent state of Niger Delta’, ‘Nigeria irritates me’, ‘this country is gradually Islamising’ and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast Code.”
But the media NGOs disagreed, arguing that the content referred to by the NBC does not violate any legitimate international professional broadcast media standard as the comments are not hate speeches and are not inciting.
They stressed that it is not the role of a broadcast regulator to protect a government from scrutiny or criticism, adding that by seeking to shield the government from embarrassment contrary to acceptable standards of media regulation, the NBC had become too partisan, thereby exacerbating its obvious lack of independence and concerned only with ingratiating itself with the political party in power.
The media NGOs expressed concern that the NBC as currently constituted is obviously being held hostage by the government with its immediate past Chief Executive Officer and the current Director-General both facing trial on charges of corruption under this same government, adding “under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how the Commission can perform its functions independently, fearlessly and with credibility when it continues to operate under such a cloud.”
They argued that the role of the media is to serve as the marketplace of ideas with a clear responsibility under Section 22 of the Constitution to hold the government accountable to the people and provide the government with unvarnished feedback from members of the public who rely on the media to express their views on all issues relating to the management of their affairs..
They described the NBC’s action as an attempt to muzzle the media and unduly restrict freedom of expression, adding that it is unacceptable for the Commission to attempt to punish a media organization for providing feedback to the government from members of the public by airing opinions which though potentially embarrassing to the government, were not illegal or prohibited under any law.
The organizations contended that even if the NBC was correct in its claim that the airing of certain content in a single programme on AIT was wrong, that could not justify the closing down of the entire station and other sister radio stations which had not been accused of any wrongdoing.
They called on the NBC to immediately reverse its decision by lifting the suspension of the broadcast license of Daar Commission, saying if it failed to do so within one week, they would approach the court to enforce their right to receive information and ideas through the media under section 39 of the Constitution.
Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Director, International Press Centre (IPC)
Director, Media Law Centre (MLC)
Daar Communications’ suspension: CISLAC urges reconsideration
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) urges the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to reconsider its position on the suspension of the license of Daar Communications PLC, the parental company of AIT television and Ray Power radio station for alleged violation of broadcast rules in some of its programmes.
While we commend the Corporation for upholding its establishing mandates to sustain principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting content in the country, we unequivocally affirm the fundamental principles of Press Freedom that “communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely”.
We are worried that leaving the suspension to linger may undermine press freedom as media remains vibrant tool in public enlightenment, information dissemination of both public and sectors’ policies, programmes and activities in Nigeria and beyond.
We are not unaware of the media role in influencing public opinion, shaping political agenda, providing a link between the government and the people, while acting as the government watchdog in advancing good governance.
We also recall the crucial importance of the media in the promotion of democracy and rule of law; just as media is indispensable for people to be informed and to effectively participate in a democracy.
We call on the Corporation as it works to promote equity and fairness in the nation’s broadcasting affairs to urgently reverse its decision and allow the principles of press freedom and democracy to come to bear.
We further encourage the media to maintain fairness, abide by professional ethics and ensure high moral standards in content development and presentation to the public.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC