The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to sanction broadcasting organizations that violate the nation’s Broadcast Code, saying the serial violation of the code by many radio and television stations constitute a threat to national peace, security and unity.
The Minister gave the directive while addressing participants at the DSO Stakeholders’ Retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Friday.
“As I have said on a number of occasions, this Administration will neither stifle press freedom nor tamper with freedom of expression. But it will also not condone a situation in which broadcast stations will set the nation on fire by ignoring the minimum standard as contained in the Broadcast Code.
“If we set the country on fire by our actions, none of us will escape the consequences. For those who may think this is far-fetched, let me remind them that a radio station, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), played a (catalytic) role during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that left some 800,000 people dead,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Broadcast Code was clear when it said in Section 0.2.1: “Broadcasting shall influence society positively, setting the agenda for the social, cultural, economic, political and technological development of a nation, for the public good.”
He also quoted three other relevant Sections of the Code: Section 3.1.2 (Materials likely to incite or encourage to the commission of a crime or lead to public disorder shall not be broadcast); Section 3.9.1 (Language or scene likely to encourage or incite to crime, or lead to disorder, shall not be broadcast) and Section 0.2.3g (Broadcasting shall be mindful of the degree of harm and offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any material in programming, in general or in specific terms).
“Unfortunately, many of our broadcasters today are wilfully flouting these critical Sections of the Code by broadcasting inciting materials and language that can encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder. The situation has become worse in recent times, in the wake of the Farmers/Herders’ clashes.
”The killings in Benue in the new year are unfortunate, condemnable and unacceptable. But the coverage of the aftermath of the killings by many broadcast stations has shown a flagrant disregard for the Broadcast Code, lack of professionalism and outright irresponsibility. Many broadcast stations are guilty of this,” the Minister said.
He added that “For those who may want to misrepresent us, this is not a call for censorship, but a call for responsibility and total adherence to the Broadcast Code. Playing, over and over again, the footage of dead bodies in the aftermath of any crisis is capable of inciting public disorder. Rolling, time and time again, the footage of mass burial of victims of any crisis is equally inciting. Offering your platform to public commentators who use incendiary language or engage in ethnic-baiting is detrimental to national peace and unity.”
Alhaji Mohammed commended the stakeholders for the success recorded in the Digital Switch Over (DSO) last year., saying it was a ”pleasant irony” that a year that was marked with bickering ended with DSO rollout in Kwara and Kaduna States within 48 hours.
He said the momentum must be maintained by making the year 2018 the most successful yet in the country’s digitization process.
“This retreat is therefore highly commendable, as it provides the stakeholders the opportunity to take a holistic look at the whole process and come out with the way forward. I have no doubt that the retreat, coming so early in the year, will have a positive impact on the DSO process, and speed up our rollout in the new year,” the Minister said.