…Want Nigerian Media Industry, Journalists Rescued from a Rising Guillotine …Seek Review of NBC Act to Guarantee Independence of Broadcast Media Stakeholders at a media gathering organised by the Institute of Media and Society (IMS) in Lagos, say the Nigerian media is in perilous times and there is urgent need to salvage the industry and
…Want Nigerian Media Industry, Journalists Rescued from a Rising Guillotine
…Seek Review of NBC Act to Guarantee Independence of Broadcast Media
Stakeholders at a media gathering organised by the Institute of Media and Society (IMS) in Lagos, say the Nigerian media is in perilous times and there is urgent need to salvage the industry and its practitioners from the antics of those angling to render it prostrate.
They contend that with the rising clampdown, intimidation, harassment and physical obstruction of journalists from performing their assignments and moves to totally shrink the public space and freedom of speech via the Social Media and Hate Speech bills, the Nigerian media which is regarded as one of the African Continent’s most vibrant, is being goaded to buckle under.
They also recalled the violence, intimidation and wanton killings that attended the Kogi and Bayelsa elections and asserted that journalists are virtually becoming endangered species while the media industry is being gradually pushed into extinction.
Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade says if the social media bill that have scaled the second reading at the National Assembly succeeds in being passed, government would have succeeded in stifling the active voice of the media.
“Already, government owns almost 90 percent of the broadcast media, if it succeeds in getting the social media bill passed into law, it may shut down blogs and news sites and that would have given them power over the active voice of the media,” he says..
But just like the proverbial Eneke the bird in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, that learnt to fly without perching, since men learnt to shoot without missing their mark, Dr Qasim Akinreti, Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos state council, opines that “The difficult times implies that journalists must move several steps to survive the prevailing backlash.” He implores “Journalists to endeavour to equip themselves with new technologies that will make them move ahead of the present landmines”.
Ms Funke Treasure Durodola, a former assistant director, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) who frowned at the antics of editors that regularly kill stories perceived as offensive to the interest of proprietors and government, admonished journalists to publish their behind the news stories in peculiar programmes like the one started by ace broadcaster, Mr Ben Egbunna.
Dr Tunde Fagbola of the African Language Technology Initiative had presented a thought provoking talk on “The Media in the Progressive Refinement of Nigeria’s Electoral Process,” admonishing the media to contribute greatly to building a democratic culture in Nigeria. While discounting the view that not much progress has been made in the electoral process, he argued that “We need to understand that election is a process and not a destination”. “The media should see its long term responsibility as contributing to creating a democratic culture,” Fagbola says.
But discussants were of the view that there are deliberate moves to asphyxiate the media and prevent it from carrying out its legitimate function as watchdog of society. And that the immediate task is to ensure the survival of the media itself.
The occasion also marked the launching of “Towards The Review Of The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act Nigeria” which encapsulates proposals by stakeholders to press on the review of the NBC Act which was first promulgated in 1992 and later amended by 1999.
Apart from calling for the independence of the NBC, and the exclusion of the Presidency from participation in the broadcasting licence process of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, it is the view of the stakeholders that the independence of the broadcast media can only be promoted by a regulator that is independent of government control.
They sought the amendment of section 39 of the constitution of Nigeria, to effectively exclude the Presidency from such activities in NBC’s activities.
It also advocated a strong an independent National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, condemning what they described as political interference in the activities of the commission.
In his remark at the unveiling of the review of the NBC Act, Executive Director of IMS, Dr Akin Akingbulu, said NBC should be free of political interference because absence of independence affects a regulator because a hurdled regulator cannot stimulate the sector.
“The NBC should be vested with full regulatory powers, including the power to process applications, grant and review licenses, without reference to other government organs such as the Ministry of Information and the Presidency”
He also added that as part of their demand for review of the NBC Act, stakeholders in the media proposed that: ‘representatives of the Ministry of Information and the Department of State Services should be excluded from membership of the governing board of the Commission and that the governing board and Director General should be appointed by the President upon consultation with groups that they represent and confirmation by the Senate”
Earlier, the Chairman of NUJ, Lagos state council, Dr Akinreti, had condemned the transparency level of issuing licenses at the Commission, the inability to make its annual report public and the very little opportunity offered for appeal to the people denied licenses by the NBC.
He said the Council had concluded plans to engage the Commission on those issues and the outcome of the discussion would determine whether the matter would be pursued beyond that level.
The stakeholders’ meeting is part of the activities under Support to Media Component of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria EU-SDGN. The IMS is implementing component 4A which is geared to enhance professionalism of media practitioners, strengthen capacity of media platforms to diversify and deepen civic and voter education, enhance capacity of the media regulator to perform its mandate and improve engagement in promoting women, youth and marginalised groups in politics.
Prominent amongst those present at the event are Mr Nwaeze Afam, programme officer EU-SDGN, Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning. Ms Bisi King-Paul and Mr Ola Fajemisi, a former director at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).