Nigeria’s media leaders have berated the Federal Government over its latest directive asking media houses not to divulge details of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in their reports.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had directed radio and television stations not to “glamourise the activities of insurgents” during their daily Newspaper Reviews. As an unwritten custom, broadcast stations in Nigeria review Newspaper headlines daily before their breakfast shows.
NBC in a letter dated July 7, 2021, issued to television and radio stations, cautioned broadcasters while reporting security challenges 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 the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Allah.
The letter reads, “Headlines of most Newspapers daily 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 glamourising 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.”
But speaking in separate interviews with The PUNCH, Media chiefs in the country insists the media won’t be deterred by the directive.
The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mustapha Isah; the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzo; and the Executive Director, Centre for Media Law and Advocacy, Richard Akinnola; pointed out that the media reports activities and does not create events.
NGE President, Isah said he agreed with the NBC that broadcast stations should not glamourise the activities of insurgents.
Isah said, “The NBC said broadcast stations should not glamourise terrorist activities which I agree with but I have a problem with the issue of ‘don’t report details of attack’. I don’t know what the NBC mean by that. If there is an attack and certain people die, are you saying that I should not report it? If there is an attack and 20 students are kidnapped, are you saying that broadcast platforms should not report the number?
“I have not seen any media house report details of a planned operation by the military on bandits and terrorists. The media does not do that for security purposes and I don’t think we will ever do that.
“The government cannot tell us how to do our report. This is why we are clearly against the Nigeria Press Council Act.
“The media does not create events; we report events. If there is a terrorist attack, we will report it. In fact, if we don’t report it, that means we are not doing our job. We will not stop doing that, we will not stop reporting events despite the threats.”
On his part, Isiguzo said the NUJ would ensure that the media space was not compressed in Nigeria under any guise.
He said, “This latest directive must be reviewed by the commission. The NBC must also ensure that its actions are in line with international best practices and must conform with time-tested models from other nations.”
While Akinnola stated that the NBC directive is obnoxious and a subtle attempt to gag the press.
Akinnola said, “It is quite unfortunate but it is difficult to gag the Nigerian Press going by its history, no matter the extrajudicial means. It is not possible. If the military failed, there is no way any government will succeed.
“The government has failed in the aspect of insecurity and this is a subtle effort to cover the inadequacy of the government.”