FG to NBC: Don’t be cowed, enforce rules against hate speech

By Our Correspondent

#TrackNigeria– The Federal Government has urged the National Broadcasting  Commission, NBC not to allow itself to be cowed or blackmailed  by operators propagating hate speech  and other vices that deepen Nigeria’s fault lines.

Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe made the call at the 2019 National Broadcast Summit, held at the Transcorp Hotels, Calabar, Cross River State  on Wednesday, 31st July, 2019

The Permanent Secretary who was  represented at the Summit by the Executive Director News, NTA, Mall. Muhammad Labbo, said  while assessing the state of the industry that, “The continuous projection of negative and bias(ed) reportage to create malaise in the society, will do no one any good.  Therefore, the NBC should enforce relevant provisions of the Broadcasting Act and refuse to be cowed by the blackmail of guilty industry operators who take refuge in constitutionalism to propagate hate speech and other acts that widen our fault lines.

Furthermore,the permanent secretary said,  “The theme of this year’s summit is apt as it seeks to examine the role of broadcasting in Nigeria’s democracy vis-à-vis emerging security imperatives.

“The 2019 general elections have come and gone, but the aftermath are issues of daily reports in the media, particularly the broadcast media.  These issues have led to lingering litigations and constitute a distraction to governance.

“This gathering is therefore important for broadcasters to rub (sic) minds and project the production of positive content which binds us as a nation rather than divide us.”

The National Broadcasting Summit this year has the theme: Broadcasting And Democracy: Emerging Security Imperatives. The keynote speaker is Malam Bello Sule, former Executive Director, Programs of the NTA.

In his speech Wednesday, NBC Director General,Is’haq Modibbo Kawu said “We are meeting within the context of the frightening security environment in our country today. This situation is reflected in the content of programming and news reportage, on radio and television, and in the media in general. That is how it should be. The media exists, to assist people to know,  as well as understand the issues in their society, in order to help make informed choices in their lives. That is the reason that media in general, must be conducted with the greatest sense of duty,  as well as the highest levels of professionalism. The context is also vital. In a democratic society, the media and their rights to freely operate are constitutionally-guaranteed. This is recognized by the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. In The Social Objectives Of Broadcasting, Section (B), The Code notes, even with the copious amounts of freedom available to the broadcaster, it nevertheless points out that: “Broadcasting organizations shall recognize that they exercise freedom of expression as agents of society, not for any personal or sectional rights,  privileges and needs of their own or of their proprietors, relatives, friends or supporters “.

Kawu added, “In the context of the democratic development of our country, and against the backdrop of the emergent security imperatives that we all confront today, Broadcasting faces real challenges. How do we develop program content, or design news coverage, which reflects the realities that face society, what The Code, in 0.2.4. (a) The Challenges To The Industry, describes as “a truthful, comprehensive an intelligent account of each day’s local, regional, national and international events that have significant impact on the Nigerian community”? Or in 0.2.4. (b), which The Code describes as “an impartial access to the nation’s intelligence made equally available to everyone”? And in 0.2.4. (c), The Code requests that broadcasting be “a forum for the exchange of comments and criticisms representing every stratum of the society, as required in a Federal state like Nigeria, in which the views and opinions of everyone are included in the national consensus”. But in truth, and if we give ourselves the pause as Nigerian broadcasters, we would not be able to say that we have completely, properly or professionally, lived up to these obligations.

Speaking on some recent events, the  NBC DG said “The manner that the media in general, and broadcasting in particular, have profiled, conditioned and deepened fear and prejudices, in the context of Nigeria’s emergent security challenges, has been frightening. We don’t have to go farther, than in the ongoing profiling of the Fulbe nomads in particular, and Fulbe people in general. Yet, The Code In The Character Of Broadcasting, 0.2.1. had admonished that: “no broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder, be repugnant to public feeling or contain an offensive reference to an person, alive or dead, or generally, be disrespectful to human dignity”.

“At the NBC, we keep very meticulous records of the breaches of The Nigeria Broadcasting Code, and on a quarterly basis, we release that record to the industry and the general public. This is in fact, one of the many reasons why we endeavor to organize forums like this in Calabar. We hope that at the end of today’s Summit, we would have deepened our perspectives on the relevant issues around Broadcasting And Democracy: Emerging Security Imperatives in Nigeria,” the DG said.