South-West Group of Online Publishers (SWEGOP) has described as unconstitutional and arbitrary the order by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) stopping the programme of the Channels Television, ‘Politics Today’ and the fine of Five Million Naira on the station for an alleged breach of the broadcast code.
Acting Director-General of the commission, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, in a letter to the Managing Director of Channels Television referred to the interview of a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Emmanuel Powerful, on Channels’ live programme of Sunday, 25th April 2021, as without “caution or reprimand.”
SWEGOP in a release, signed by its Chairman, Mr Olayinka Agboola and the Public Relations Officer, Remi Oladoye said: “The decision of the NBC to order the stoppage of Channels TV’s programme is yet another instance of the Federal Government’s plan to effectively muzzle independent media and voices.”
The group of online publishers further declared that the “development is, no doubt, detrimental to media freedom and access to information in the country.”
It noted that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has a responsibility to protect the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information.
SWEGOP, while describing media freedom as a central part of the effective exercise of freedom of expression and access to information said: “Punishing Channels TV lacks any legal basis whatsoever, hence it amounts to an arbitrary and unjust application of regulations against the media. It is equally unconstitutional.
“The government and NBC should, therefore, uphold the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom, by thereby and reversing itself.”
SWEGOP also urged the president to caution NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media and respect the Nigerian Constitution.
In a similar development, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has condemned in strong terms the threat issued to Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over an interview with the spokesperson of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr Emmanuel Powerful.
Powerful had featured on Channels TV programme “Politics Today” on Sunday, April 25, 2021, where he allegedly made inciting statements and NBC, in a letter, ordered the immediate suspension of the programme.
The Guild, a statement by its President, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, respectively, said It will not stand by and watch media houses being threatened by regulatory agencies in the country.
“Press freedom is threatened when media houses are made to operate in an atmosphere of fear. The Guild stands with Channels and will go to any length to defend press freedom in the country.
“The body of editors believes that the NBC is guilty of double standards because stations that carried Sheikh Gumi’s parley with terrorists in their camps were not sanctioned by the commission.
“The NBC should jettison the practice of issuing threats to broadcast stations over matters that could easily be dealt with through dialogue. Democracy will be meaningless in Nigeria if press freedom is eroded.”