On Sunday April 25, 2021, several Nigerian and international media outlets reported that a tactical team of the Nigerian Army, the Police, and the Department of State Services (DSS), had carried out a joint attack on the headquarters of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the military wing of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The Media outlets reported the Nigerian Army as saying that one Ikonso Commander, alleged to be the commander of IPOB military and seven others were killed during the operation in Awomama, East Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria.
ThisDay, one of the many Nigerian Newspapers that reported the incident quoted, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima, the Nigerian Army spokesman, as saying that “the operation in Imo State was launched in the early hours of Saturday following an intelligence report on the location of the IPOB headquarters and the movement of the commander popularly known as “Ikonso Commander”.
The army has not denied any of the statements credited to its spokesman, in relation to the operation against IPOB and ESN, its military wing.
Against the above background, it is absolutely confounding, that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has threatened to sanction Channels Television, for interviewing the spokesman of the proscribed organization during the broadcast of its ‘Politics Today’ Programme on Sunday April 25, 2021, despite the fact that the station was merely doing a follow-up on the story which had broken earlier.
Channels Television was actually acting in the public and national interest by seeking to question the spokesperson of an organisation whose existence, despite proscription, the government especially through the Nigerian army has continuously recognised and which in the past couple of weeks has been accused of being responsible for reprehensible acts of serial killing of policemen and arson in Imo State and other parts of the South-east.
It should be noted that in the course of the said interview, the anchor Seun Okinbaloye, did refer to IPOB as a proscribed organisation, just like many other media outlets that had previously reported the tactical assault on its operational Headquarters.
The decision of the Nigerian media to report the alleged activities of IPOB is in full cognisance of the fact that there is no law of the Nigerian Federation that forbids the media from reporting the activities or alleged activities of a proscribed organisation.
In the circumstance therefore, we find the NBC’s letter of April 26, 2021, addressed to the Managing Director of Channels Television, and titled ‘INCITING COMMENTS BY PROSCRIBED GROUP: POLITICS TODAY’ as unwarranted and highly intimidatory.
By threatening that the station “remains liable to sanctions provided in section 15 of the code which prescribes among others – suspension of broadcast license and the fine of 5million’ and ordering the suspension of the politics today Programme, the NBC has embarked on another round of violation of press freedom in Nigeria.
The NBC has again violently violated the rules of natural justice and fair hearing by constituting itself into the accused, the prosecutor, and the judge in the case between it and Channels Television over the interview in contention.
“We hereby call on NBC to stop threading this anti press freedom path by withdrawing its letter to Channels Television.”