Recently, on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the entire media community in Nigeria had the opportunity to reflect on its operating environment. It was the commemoration of the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
At one of these events held in Abuja, Dapo Olorunyomi, editor of Premium Times, was a key speaker.
In plain language, he said that the tirades against the media by President Buhari’s incumbent government are incredibly worse than what we endured during the days of the brutal military government which, again, featured Buhari in particular. with the notoriety of Decree 4 of 1984, which has had a most unpleasant impact on the psyche of the media as well as on other citizens to this day.
Based on the extensive documentation already made on the precarious state of press freedom in Nigeria by local, regional and international media, freedom of expression and human rights groups, the jury is out. already there, and the fact that Olorunyomi spoke, can no longer be refused.
The danger is very real and one area where it is playing out dangerously is that of deregulation of the audiovisual media sector.
While a new publication intended to serve as an advocacy tool is ready for wide distribution, there can be no better time to engage all stakeholders in action. The publication, titled: ‘Question marks on 6th NBC Code Amendments’, details the assorted reservations of stakeholders for seminal attention and appreciation not only to continue the current attack on broadcast media, but also for them. potential reduction measures in the future.
Just as it was said during the unfortunate period of civil war that ‘keeping Nigeria one is a task that must be done’, Nigerians must now also embrace the slogan: end the arbitrariness and excesses of the Commission. national broadcasting is a task that must be completed.
Herculean, without a doubt, the task looms. But it is the one whose realization must be regarded as an urgent imperative so that companies operating in the media and communications sector can prosper without the freedom of the press and the rights of journalists being unduly restricted. In other words, the choice open to the Nigerian public is either of two choices: lobby for a depoliticized and industry-friendly code of regulation for the broadcasting sector; or to accept one which strangles and perpetually holds the sword of Damocles on the sector and its actors.
Compared to the above, some of the main amendments to the 6th edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code pose some problems, especially with regard to the extent to which they could undermine democratic norms and standards and undermine the values dear to the liberalization of the sector. broadcasting and the free enterprise economy. .
Consider that Section 2.127.2 of the Code seeks to confer arbitrary powers on NBC to, among other things, remove or shut down a station for violating the webcasting / online provisions without making any provision for them. stations that might be concerned about seeking redress.
Also consider that the provisions of Section 3.18.2 (e) and Section 3.18.3 (ad) constitute an usurpation of the functions and powers of the Nigerian Copyright Board, Section 3.18.3 (d ) being particularly offensive and anti-democratic as it seeks to oust the jurisdiction of the courts by making final the decision of the Nigerian Copyright Board on the matters referred to in the articles. Still on the subject of music, the provision of Article 3.18.2 (e) does not take into account the fact that not all artistic works are covered or eligible for copyright.
It may sound laughable, but in a democratic configuration, the provision in section 5.6.1 warns against the use of user-generated content which can “embarrass individuals, organizations, government ……”. Will this not limit the contribution of citizens to media content and the diversity that accompanies it in the dissemination of information? Indeed, by including the government among those who should not be embarrassed, the provision can intimidate the media while encouraging public officials to shirk the responsibility of responsibility since they can always resort to pretending to be embarrassed. This is why it has also been argued that the provision may undermine the obligation imposed on the media by Article 22 of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution to oversee governance and hold government accountable to the people.
There are many other reprehensible provisions in the revised code that may discourage further investment in the Nigerian broadcasting sector while forcing those who have already done so to rethink. Moving Twitter’s regional headquarters from Nigeria to Ghana should be a lesson in this regard.
It is therefore not for nothing that various stakeholders have taken more than a passing interest in the controversial Code.
There is no better time than now for all of us to run with the campaign stick for the ultimate victory we deserve. It is as much the battle of the media professionals as that of all the other citizens wanting to have good governance in Nigeria where the press is aware of its responsibilities for the good of our political and economic well-being.
. Being the edited version of our remarks during the public presentation of Question Marks on the 6th NBC Code Amendments on Thursday 11 November 2021. Lanre Arogundade is the Executive Director of the Lagos-based International Press Center, while Tunde Akanni, PhD, is the Acting Head of LASU Journalism Journalism Department.