The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) says recent directive to broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) not to harp on the activities of bandits and insurgents terrorising the country will undermine free press.
The NBC, in a letter dated July 7 and signed by Francisca Aiyetan, director of broadcast monitoring, had directed radio and television stations not to “glamourise the nefarious activities of insurgents, bandits and kidnappers” in their reports.
Reacting to the directive, the NGE said NBC directive is an attack on free press, freedom of expression, access to information, and victims’ right to justice, which are essential to public debate and accountability in a democratic space.
In a statement jointly signed by Mustapha Isah, president of NGE, and Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the general secretary, on Wednesday, the guild described the directive a “subtle threat to free press”.
The guild said that given the consistent anti-media policy of NBC in recent times, its members are concerned about what the commission means by the expansive definitions of what may constitute “too many details”, “glamorising”, “divisive rhetoric”, and “security issues” in its directive.
“We hope it is not a ploy by the NBC to ban newspapers review in broadcasting stations. Because, the content of the directive doesn’t specify what kind of conduct would fall within their realm. It is our view that the role of independent, critical, and trustworthy journalism has never been more important than now in our country,” the statement reads.
The guild noted that Nigerian media are very mindful of their responsibility in the current collective efforts to address the security challenges in the country, adding that the relationship between the security agencies and the media has been more respectful and trustful along this mission in the past few years.
It explained that there is no security without free media and free expression, and no free expression and free media without security, saying these two terms should come hand in hand and not fight each other in the general interest of the nation.
“While we are mindful of our responsibility at this trying moment of our nation, we must also not lose ability to see that security, in a democratic nation, is not an end in itself,” the statement further reads.
“Its single purpose is to protect the capability of institutions, including the media, to guarantee citizens the free exercise of their fundamental human rights, without discrimination.
“History has revealed time and again that efforts to increase security through the clampdown of liberty and freedom have threatened both liberty and security.”