26th January, 2018
The Federal Government on Friday cautioned against “willful flouting of broadcast code, lack of professionalism and outright irresponsibility’’ by the nation’s broadcast media.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the warning at the Digital Switch Over (DSO) Stakeholders’ Retreat in Uyo.
The minister said that the present administration was not out to stifle press freedom nor tamper with freedom of expression, but would not condone a situation in which broadcast stations set the nation on fire.
“If we set the country on fire by our actions, none of us will escape the consequences.
“For those who may think this is far-fetched, let me remind them that a radio station, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), played a significant role during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that left some 800,000 people dead,’’ he said.
The minister said that he had directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to step up its monitoring and regulatory role in order to stop the dangerous trend.
He said the commission would not hesitate to wield the big stick if necessary against recalcitrant stations.
Mohammed stressed that the government position and directive should not be misrepresented for censorship, but a call for responsibility and total adherence to the broadcast code.
Mohammed said that a critical look at the broadcast industry revealed that practitioners were not living up to its general principles as spelt out in the code.
Citing some sections of the code, the minister said that broadcasting should set the agenda for the social, cultural, economic, political and technological development of a nation, for the public good’’.
He added that materials likely to incite or lead to public disorder should be discarded.
“Unfortunately, many of our broadcasters today are flouting these critical Sections of the Code by broadcasting inciting materials and language that can encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder.
“The situation has become worse in recent times, in the wake of the farmers/herders’ clashes.
“The killings in Benue in the New Year are unfortunate, condemnable and unacceptable.
“But the coverage of the aftermath of the killings by many broadcast stations has shown a flagrant disregard for the Broadcast Code, lack of professionalism and outright irresponsibility.
“Many broadcast stations are guilty of the infractions. Playing over and over again, the footage of dead bodies in the aftermath of any crisis is capable of inciting public disorder.
“Rolling time and time again the footage of mass burial of victims of any crisis is equally inciting.
“Offering your platform to public commentators who use incendiary language or engage in ethnic-baiting is detrimental to national peace and unity,’’ he said.
He congratulated the DSO stakeholders on the success of the programme, adding that the momentum should be maintained in the New Year.
The event was attended by representatives of broadcast channel owners, broadcasters, signal distributors and officials of NBC.