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Nigerians React to Reviewed Broadcasting Code

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Criticism has trailed the  National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)’s revised broadcasting code, with some groups calling for a reversal of the code. Of utmost concern in the regulations, is the increase in the fine for hate speech for broadcasting corporations from N500,000 to N5 million, as announced by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. It will be recalled that the Commission released a revised code on August 4, 2020. The code was brought into further public scrutiny following a media interview of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, where he made comments relating to the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group, including an allegation that the group’s commander is a serving Governor of a Northern State in Nigeria. The media platform which hosted the interview, Nigeria Info Radio station was fined the sum of N5 million by the NBC for “unprofessional conduct.” Nigerians have reacted to the penalty meted out to the radio station, describing the broadcasting Commission as acting as judge, jury and executioner, and questioning whether the NBC followed due process in imposing the said fine.

Furthermore, a Zonal Director of the Commission, Chibuike Ogwumike  speaking to newsmen in Lagos State on the new code, warned against abusing the President, governors and other leaders in the media. In as much as media houses ought to take care to conduct and present interviews and other broadcast content in a professional manner, the line between what amounts to ‘abusing’ leaders, hate speech and constructive criticism of the government remains unclear. The reviewed broadcasting code on which the punitive measure is based has been enmeshed in controversy even within the hierarchy of the NBC. Observers question the authority of the Commission to create an offence in its broadcast code and pass judgment on those it deems offenders.