The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, yesterday, insisted that the three broadcast stations recently sanctioned acted irresponsibly in their coverage of the ENDSARS protests and said is not going back on the sanctions.
Director General of the NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, who stated this when members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations paid him a visit to appeal for a review of the sanctions, however, noted that the stations were yet to pay the fine, despite the fact that it gave them two weeks for the payment.
The President and Chairman of Council of the NIPR, Mallam Mukhtar Sirajo, had called on the NBC to review the sanctions especially as it is crucial that government agencies are not seen to be over-heating the polity.
The NIPR President, Mukhtar Sirajo, disclosed that it is the duty of all government establishments to align with the Federal Government’s realisation of the right of Nigerians to dissent.
He called on the NBC to see the period of the protest and issues emanating from it as a period of national healing and reconciliation, adding that the recent punitive actions against the broadcast stations, though within the constitutional rights of the NBC, should be reviewed.
‘The lessons, we believe, are being learnt. We want NBC to align with efforts seen at de-escalating tensions in the polity. We also commiserate with the entire Nigerian media over the attacks on their facilities by hoodlums,” he noted.
However, Idachaba, noted that the NBC, on noticing the deviation from and breach of the Broadcasting Code by the stations had issued a statement and a memo to them, and also met with executive officers of the stations to bring them in line, yet, they continued in their irresponsible coverage of the protests.
He said: “It is important to bring you up to speed regarding the internal steps that were taken as a build up to the imposition of the fine. The NBC organized its annual lecture, in August 2020, in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The theme was broadcasting reforms and the challenges in the coverage of crisis and emergencies. We devoted our time and resources in looking at what the role of the media should be in terms of national conflicts and crisis.
“Soon after the lecture, there was an emergency, there was crisis, and nobody bothered to look at what the provisions of the Broadcast code requires at that time. So you see that there was either laxity or a deliberate misapplication of what the ethical requirements of practice should be.
“When the protest began, and we acknowledged that, there was a modicum of decency and fairness. There were following the protesters; they brought their agitations; they brought the sides of government; they projected what government had promised and what government was doing; very well and objectively reported.
“But it changed when violent was brought into the protest. In the coverage of the violence, suddenly, broadcasters were now engaged with speculation and with the sensational. What now followed is the state of violence: the burning, the arson, the killing, and later, the looting. What was disturbing to us was that they were using social media sources and social media images to buttress their stories.
“Strangely, we found that at all the venues of the protest, the major broadcast stations had reporters, following the protests, but when it came to footages, they picked from other sources; sources that were not verified, not authenticated, largely fabricated and misleading.
“Can someone give a better eye report than your own reporter at the location? So why would they abdicate footages from their own reporters on ground. That was the major problem, reliance on social media. Some of them said they were getting their information from a disc jockey. A radio-television station in Nigeria with over 30 years broadcasting experience, with facilities across the country, with a network of reporters, it is a Disc Jockey that is giving you reports and live feeds and you did not verify it, yet you used it, in clear violation of the Broadcasting Code.
“African Independent Television, AIT, came out and said the National Ecumenical Centre was on fire and brought out images of people carrying torchlights, fire, brooms and sticks as actuality toi that story. Meanwhile the Ecumenical center was in Abuja, as well as AIT, yet, they did not send any reporter; they did not verify the information.
“They later recanted, saying they have now sent a reporter to the scene, who confirmed that it is not true. Where they did they get the story from? Of course, from the social media, but they did not authenticate. Good they recanted after two hours, what the reprisals that would have followed, even in less than five minutes? And people who picked the news at first, will not be the same ones to pick the recanted story.
“Another one took footages of someone repairing the roof of an Access bank branch and said the individual was a sniper, shooting gun from the roof, whereas the person was repairing the roof. The crowd followed that misleading story and went and burnt down many Access Bank branches and even damaged the bank’s ATMs. This led to loss of lives.”
He stated that there was an urgent need for the NIPR, the NBC and other stakeholders to engage the broadcasters on the need to use their licenses to promote national unity and cohesion.