The National Broadcasting Commission, (NBC), has debunked reports that it directed media houses to stop reporting details of terrorist attacks.
Disclosing this yesterday, via a letter signed by the Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah, the commission argued that the contents of its “letter are not intended and by no means capable of being construed or interpreted as a sweeping gag on broadcast stations and journalists in the country”.
Recall that the Commission, on July 16, cautioned media stations to desist from “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 letter, titled: ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah.
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.
However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), miffed with the Commissions directive,
on July 20 asked President Buhari to urgently instruct Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the NBC to withdraw within 24 hours the directive containing the sweeping gag order.
The organisation expressed “grave concern that the contents of the NBC directive would impermissibly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.
Reacting to SERAP yesterday, the Commission, through its Director-General, Balarabe Ilelah, opined that the NBC “did not in any way direct stations to stop reporting details of terrorist attacks and other violations across the country”.
The Commission further stated, amongst others, that “the contents of the letter are not intended and by no means capable of being construed or interpreted as a sweeping gag on broadcast stations and journalists in the country.
“The Commission, as a statutory body established by law, is conscious of the Rights and Freedoms contained in the 1999 Constitution and other international instruments, treaties and covenants guaranteeing rights to certain rights and obligations and would not take any action that deliberately infringes on any of these rights.
“Please note that nowhere in the body of the letter complained of are there any words or phrases stopping broadcasters from reporting any case or threatening fines and other punishment other than reminding them of the existing provisions of the code and urging them to perform the role of peace Agents; In the interest of National Security. These can definitely not be seen as suppressing freedom of expression by any means or endanger the job of journalists in the country”, it stated.