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FG Insists on Online Media Regulation

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has asked that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) be given powers to regulate internet broadcasting and all online media. He stated this while speaking at a public hearing hosted by the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, on a bill seeking to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act, on Wednesday, June 16. According to Mohammed, the Federal Government has a responsibility to monitor media content.

Stakeholders at the hearing, including the International Press Centre (IPC) criticised the current situation where the NBC operates arbitrarily by deciding what constitutes an offence, decides on the sanctions and goes ahead to mete out same to media operators. The IPC described the Commission as the accuser, prosecutor and judge in its own case and canvassed for the provision of a right of appeal to the Commission’s board on major decisions. The NBC Act was also criticised for not providing for the independence of the body, which has manifested in the Commission’s inability to protect and strengthen the media industry, and to general failure to deliver on its mandate. Also, civil society organisations and other stakeholders in the media industry have opposed a proposed amendment to empower the NBC to regulate tariffs for satellite television, as this could lead to excessive pricing. They also rejected the Federal Government’s proposal to regulate  all internet broadcast and online media in the country, as this will be detrimental to the freedom of expression and the press, as well as civic space. 

In another development, Nigeria’s Information Minister has accused Twitter and its founder, Jack Dorsey as being vicariously liable for the losses recorded during the #EndSARS protest. Speaking on a radio programme, he explained that Dorsey supported the protest through fundraising and providing visibility for the campaign on Twitter, and was therefore liable for the ensuing loss of lives and property. The Federal Government had initially refuted claims that lives were lost in the protest. It is unclear if the deaths the Minister referred to are an admission of the citizens’ claims that lives were lost when the military brought the protest to an abrupt end, or if his reference is to deaths that occurred as part of the violence perpetrated by hoodlums in the aftermath of the protest.