NBC | Here’s What Could Become of the Media Space in the Near Future

While the threats to media freedom are real and concerning in their own right, their impact on the state of democracy is what makes them truly dangerous.”

The right to free speech is one of the most basic rights that we enjoy in Nigeria. However, after a warning by the NBC, there exists a looming threat that could not only see the media being censored but also affect our human rights. How did this threat come about?

The Looming Threat

Last week, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued a “final warning” to the Arise Television Network following the appearance of a guest on the channel.

The Commission said that the guest on the television station made several derogatory remarks against the Judiciary, legislative, and executive arms of government. The guest also spoke extensively on the controversy surrounding the academic records of President Bola Tinubu from Chicago State University (CSU). 

According to the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, a civil society organization (CSO), this warning could mean the beginning of something bigger and detrimental for the Nigeria media space in general.  

According to the school’s director, the threat could result in outright and internal censorship for the media and subsequently, the right to say anything aside from matters of state would be revoked. At a time when Nigeria is rife with various economic, societal, and political issues, this action, if carried out, would be highly detrimental to the country’s general “health” in more ways than we can imagine.

Let’s recall the Nigerian Twitter ban. The government, on the 5th of June, 2021 issued a nationwide ban on Twitter two days after the microblogging site deleted a controversial tweet made by President Muhammadu Buhari. The government accused the social media platform of allowing itself to be used against Nigeria’s interest, saying part of the conditions for reversing the ban is that it must determine what Nigerians can post on the social media platform. The government at the time also asked all social media platforms to register with NBC and ordered all broadcast stations to stop using Twitter. We could see the effect of the ban on the Nigerian economy, with a loss of over 5 billion Naira and a high rate of unemployment. The ban was later called off after the social media platform agreed to pay an “applicable tax” and establish a legal entity within the country sometime in 2022.

A Little Silver Lining

Despite the “threats” issued by the NBC, the Nigerian media and the freedom of expression are strongly protected by the Nigerian Constitution. According to media scholar and research fellow, Paul Obi, the NBC is trying to truncate the freedom of speech which is contradictory to the country’s laws. According to him, the NBC cannot override the provisions of the 1999 constitution. 

“In fact, at any particular point in time that the NBC attempts to overshoot itself, Sections 22 and 39 supersede any NBC codes. he said. “Therefore, the threat to Arise News is null and void, unconstitutional, and not known to the Nigerian laws and statutes within the media ecosystem.”

Although the existence of the 1999 constitution makes it difficult for the NBC or any regulatory body to completely gag the media, censorship is a part of the Nigerian media governing rules. Although the extent to which they go with the censorship rules cannot be determined, we can only hope for the country’s advancement and see what the future holds for the Nigerian media.

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