The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), of which Media Rights Agenda (MRA) is a member, has condemned the sanctions imposed on the two television stations without due process and called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to drop the fines against Television Continental (TVC) and Arise TV saying the action violates media freedom and the right to freedom of expression
CWPPF accused NBC of breaching the principle of fair hearing in the sanctioning of TVC and Arise TV, which were fined on February 3, 2023, for allegedly airing hate speech.
The NBC sanctioned Continental Broadcasting Service Limited, owners of TVC, and Arise Global Media Limited, owners Arise TV, the sum of N2 million each for allegedly airing inflammatory, derogatory, and unfair comments at campaign rallies of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Coalition said while it is clear that hate speech is antithetical to professional journalistic practices and inconsistent with democratic principles of inclusivity, equity and justice, it is also essential to understand that allegations of hate speech should not be made lightly and any organization or individual accused of hate speech should be given adequate opportunity to defend themselves against the charge.
CWPPF agreed that for an evolving democracy like Nigeria’s, the airing of hate speech by a broadcaster would obviously be considered a huge breach of the agreed standards of professional journalism practice, which are essential for the mass media to effectively perform their core function of informing society on a range of issues and ensuring all shades of opinions are given access to the media platform.
It however noted that it is equally imperative that in addressing any allegation that a broadcaster had violated established professional standards by broadcasting hate speech, a regulatory authority must be guided by the constitutional and democratic principles of fair hearing, equity, justice and fair play.
The group said suspicion that a broadcaster has aired hate speech cannot give NBC the right and power to be the accuser, prosecutor, and judge and that it was of the opinion that NBC, having played the role of the accuser, the prosecutor, and the judge in this instance, has breached the right to fair hearing for the media organizations that it has sanctioned.
CWPPF argued that: “If indeed hate speech was the case, as alleged and reported, the decent and appropriate thing to do would have been to prosecute the alleged culprits in a court of law vested with jurisdiction in such a matter, rather than making a scapegoat out of the media organizations that were performing their professional and constitutional functions and merely provided an opportunity for citizens to air their views in the context of an electioneering campaign.”
It also called on the Federal Government and the NBC to work with other stakeholders in the media and broadcasting sectors to carry out a review of the “Hate speech Prohibition” provision in the Nigeria Broadcasting Code as the interpretation given to hate speech in the current code is offensive to free speech, which is an essential part of the democratic process.
CWPPF is a group of media and civil society organisations committed to upholding democracy and good governance by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom in Nigeria. It is an initiative rooted in the 2017 ‘No News Is Bad News Programme’ organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU) in collaboration with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (formerly Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism).