Media advocates fume as Nigerian govt sanctions TV stations over #EndSARS coverage

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Media advocates fume as Nigerian govt sanctions TV stations over #EndSARS coverage

On Tuesday last week, as details of the shooting by the Nigerian army at protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos unfolded, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) announced “guidelines” for media organisations for the “coverage of the crisis.”

Citing provisions from the heavily-criticized amended broadcasting code, the agency cautioned broadcast stations not to use information that “adversely affects those emotionally involved” in the brewing.

“The broadcaster shall approach with restraint the use of materials from user generated sources in order not to embarass individuals, organisations, government or cause dissatisfaction, incite to panic or rift in the society at large,” the agency said, quoting section 5.6.2 of the code.

On Monday, the commission delivered the first blow. Three television stations – AIT, Channels and Arise News television stations – were each hit with a sanction of N3 million for alleged violation of the broadcasting code in reporting the #EndSARS protests.

The acting director-general of the agency, Armstrong Idachaba, said the stations transmitted “footage obtained from unverified and unauthenticated social media sources,” and warned that they risk losing their licenses if they persist.

“No doubt, these pictures stimulated anger and heightened the violence that was witnessed during the #EndSARS crisis,” Mr Idachaba said, adding that the penalty would “serve as a deterrent to broadcasters who did not verify news stories before they broadcast.

“In line with the provision of the code section B which is (a) heavy fine between N500,000 to N5 million, we will communicate that to the affected stations depending on the magnitude of breaches. But none of them will pay less than N2 to N3 million and any further breach will lead to the withdrawal of licence,’’ Mr Idachaba said.

This latest fine, which has been challenged by a rights group, SERAP, adds to the list of sanctions of media organisations under the amended code which empowers the government to regulate the media without recourse to a court order.

CREDIT: Premium NG

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