Media muzzling by President Muhammadu Buhari is playing out in the broadcast sector, with the new director-general Mallam Balarabe Illela reeling out a slew of reminders and new rules on what they can cover.
In a letter of 7 July 2021, issued to television and radio stations, Illela stressed the need for “caution” by broadcasters while reporting banditry and insurgency in the country.
The letter titled, ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of Ilelah.
He ordered television and radio stations in Nigeria not to divulge “details” of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in their reports.
The letter directed them not to “glamourise the nefarious activities of insurgents” during their daily newspaper reviews.
“Headlines of most Newspapers on a daily basis are replete with security topics. While bringing information on security to the doorsteps of Nigerians is a necessity, there is a need for caution as too many details may have an adverse implication on the efforts of our security officials who are duty-bound to deal with the insurgency.
“The Commission, therefore, enjoins broadcasters to collaborate with the government in dealing with the security challenges by;
“Not glamourizing the nefarious activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits etc.
“Advising guests and/or analysts on programmes not to polarise the citizenry with divisive rhetoric, in driving home their point.
“Not giving details of either the security issues or victims of these security challenges so as not to jeopardise the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers and other security agents.”
The Commission also reminded the broadcast stations to be guided by provisions of Sections 5.4.1(f) and 5.4.3 of the NBC Code which states thus:
“The broadcaster shall not transmit divisive materials that may threaten or compromise the divisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a sovereign state.
“In reporting conflict situations, the broadcaster shall perform the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality.”
At a meeting with broadcast executives on 14 July, Illela further reiterated the warning to the stations.
He said the NBC will not hesitate to sanction any broadcast station that violates the laid down rules of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
Ilelah, stated that in recent times, broadcast stations have continually breached the Code, which has created problems that are capable of inciting the public against the government, as well as, create chaos in the society.
“As broadcasters, we have a responsibility to maintain law and order in the country,” and this according to him, can be done by controlling our broadcast content.
He added that as broadcasters and citizens of the country, “we have a role to protect our National Interest for public safety and Public good because without Nigeria, there will be no media.”
The NBC Boss further noted that violating the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, indicates that stations are deviating from its obligation and responsibility and the NBC will not hesitate to sanction any station that breaches the Code.
He urged broadcast stations to use their platforms not as tools to disintegrate the country but rather use them to encourage peace and unity amongst citizens.
He, therefore, urged broadcast stations to be professional and operate within the laid down rules of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.