Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja and Omolola Afolabi
MEDIA Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC) on Wednesday condemned the fines slammed on three television stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over the coverage of the #EndSARS protests.
They described the commission’s action as an outrageous violation of the Constitution and basic principles of fair hearing.
The two organisations said the action should not be allowed to stand.
In a letter, dated October 23, 2020, by its Acting Director General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, the NBC fined each of the three stations – Channels Television, Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Arise Television – N3 million as penalty for their alleged use of unsubstantiated footages from social media in their coverage of the #EndSARS protests and gave them three weeks from the date of receipt of the letter to pay the amount to avoid further sanctions.
In a joint statement in Lagos, the two organisations accused the NBC of turning itself into a “kangaroo court” and advised the commission to reverse the punitive action.
MRA’s Executive Director Mr. Edetaen Ojo said: “…Every Nigerian ought to be scandalised by this obscene violation of a principle that is sacrosanct not only under our Constitution but under every regional and international human rights instrument to which Nigeria is a state party. It portrays Nigeria as crude and primitive and will no doubt bring the country to ridicule.”
IPC Executive Director Lanre Arogundade expressed dismay at NBC’s action against the three broadcast stations.
He said: “The NBC has, in this matter, again constituted itself into the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case. It is indeed strange that the fines were arbitrarily imposed without giving the concerned media outlets the option of defending the allegations. All this constitutes an affront on rule of law.”
Also, some citizens, under the aegis of “Concerned Nigerians” urged the NBC to reverse the sanction.
In a letter by activist and its convener, Deji Adeyanju, the group described the commission’s action as “draconian and undemocratic”.