The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, last week announced the government’s decision to sanction Trust TV and BBC Africa Eye over their documentaries exposing the activities of the bandits and how they are making life unbearable for Nigerians.
Amedia rights advocacy centre, the International Press Centre (IPC) has condemned in the strongest term, the imposition of N5 million fine on Trust TV by the Nigerian government over the documentary on terrorists and their activities in the Northern region of the country.
The Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, last week announced the government’s decision to sanction Trust TV and BBC Africa Eye over their documentaries exposing the activities of the bandits and how they are making life unbearable for Nigerians.
The minister had accused the two media organisations of promoting terrorism in Nigeria through the documentaries. He vowed that “They will not get away with it, appropriate sanctions will be meted to both the BBC and the Trust TV.”
In fulfilment of the minister’s statement, the Nigerian government imposed a fine of N5 million on Trust TV, Multichoice, TSTV and NTA-Startimes.
But reacting to the development, the International Press Centre in a statement by its Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, said it is miffed that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) could slam such a hefty fine on Trust TV broadcasting the documentary.
According to the IPC, the imposition of the fine contained in a letter dated August 3, 2022, to the Chief Executive Officer of Trust TV Network Limited by the Director General of NBC, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah is “arbitrary.”
The IPC, therefore, warned the Nigerian Government “to refrain from constituting itself to the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.”
“IPC is dismayed that the Federal Government through the NBC has shamefully done that, forgetting that in a democracy the basic tenets of the rule of law cannot be trampled upon as it suits the whims and caprices of those in the corridors of power.
“In the above context, it is worth pointing out that Trust TV was neither notified of the alleged infringement of sections 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11. 2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code nor requested to defend itself against the allegations before the fine was handed down.
“In other words, there was no fair hearing for Tust TV, but a one-sided hearing of the accusation by the information minister upon which the NBC acted.
“It is unacceptable that NBC, funded by taxpayers’ money and expected to act in the public interest, would continuously exhibit the symptoms of an attack dog of the government once the information minister blows the whistle.
“The Federal Government, the information minister and the NBC must be made to understand that the banditry ravaging the country and daily putting the lives and property of the citizens in jeopardy is not a creation of the media, which has through editorial opinions, investigations and broadcast programmes offered suggestions and support to the government on the way out of the general insecurity.
“At the same time, in line with its constitutional obligation to monitor governance and hold the government accountable to the people, the media has also been critical of the inability of the government to fulfil its own part of the constitutional bargain by guaranteeing the lives and security of the people,” the Centre stated.
The Executive Director of the IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, pointed out that “In the circumstance, the IPC considers the fine imposed on Trust TV an act of injustice, an assault on media freedom and a violation of the right of the people to know the truth about the dynamics of banditry in the country and the decision should therefore be reversed.”
The IPC called on the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union of Journalists and other bodies championing freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country to “rise in unison in condemnation of this new development and hostility by the government.”