23rd February, 2013
The regulatory authority of Nigeria’s broadcasting stations has suspended the broadcasting license of a radio station that repeated conspiracy theories about polio vaccines days before deadly attacks on polio clinics, a statement said Saturday.
Gunmen attacked two polio clinics in the northern city of Kano on February 8, killing at least 10 people, after Wazobia FM broadcast a story reviving claims that the vaccines are part of a Western plot to harm Muslims.
Two journalists who worked on the programme, as well as a radical Islamic cleric featured on the show, have been charged with incitement to violence and other offences in connection with the shootings.
“Following due consideration of the seriousness of the breaches contained in the programme, which was inciting, the commission has formed the opinion that the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest,” said the statement from the National Broadcasting Commission.
Wazobia went off the air on Friday evening.
The ex-station chief, Sanusi Kankarofi, who resigned in protest after his colleagues were charged, told AFP that Wazobia did not intend to spread misinformation about polio vaccines on its widely popular Sandar Girma programme.
But in the February 6 edition, the show’s presenter Yakubu Musa Fagge said local officials in Kano “have signed contract with the white men from the West, going door-to-door forcing on children (the) polio vaccine that has no basis.”
“Go and tell the World Health Organisation that I know what is in (the) polio vaccine. I only keep quiet because it is not good to stir confusion,” he added in the Hausa language broadcast.
Fagge is among those facing incitement charges and last week he resigned from Wazobia citing censorship.
Claims that polio vaccinations are used to render Muslims infertile have long been rife in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, often stoked by local politicians and clerics, dealing setbacks to efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.
Such conspiracy theories led to the suspension of vaccination campaigns in Kano in 2003.
Nigeria is one of only three countries still considered to have endemic polio, along with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
No evidence has yet emerged linking Wazobia’s programme to the shootings.