The Media Rights Agenda and the International Press Centre have accused the National Broadcasting Commission of turning itself into a ‘kangaroo court’ by fining broadcast stations at will.
MRA and IPC said this in reaction to the fine recently imposed on three stations – Channels Television, Africa Independent Television and ARISE Television.
They were fined N3m each as penalty for their alleged use of unsubstantiated footages from social media in their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests and gave them three weeks from the date of receipt of the letter to pay the amount to avoid further sanctions.
The organisations threatened legal actions if the NBC refused to reverse the sanction.
In a joint statement issued in Lagos, the two organisations accused the NBC of turning itself into a “kangaroo court” and called on it to immediately reverse its decision sanctioning the three stations in order to save itself the embarrassment that both the commission and country would suffer locally and internationally as a result of its action.
MRA’s Executive Director, Mr Edetaen Ojo, said, “A situation where the NBC, which is so glaringly lacking in independence and subject to the direct control of political authorities, wrote the Nigeria Broadcasting Code creating the offences for which the stations were sanctioned and was the complainant in the allegations against the stations, prosecuted them and sat in judgment on the matter without even giving the stations any opportunity to defend themselves against the charges while also imposing a fine of N3 million on each of them, which it intends to collect and pocket, is offensive to any notion of fair hearing, equity or justice.”
He also said that every Nigerian ought to be scandalised by this obscene violation of a principle that is sacrosanct not only under our constitution but under every regional and international human rights instrument to which Nigeria is a state party.
“It portrays Nigeria as crude and primitive and will no doubt bring the country to ridicule,” he added.
Mr Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of IPC, spoke in the same vein, saying, “The NBC has in this matter again constituted itself into the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.
“It is indeed strange that the fines were arbitrarily imposed without giving the concerned media outlets the option of defending the allegations. All this constitutes an affront on rule of law.”
Arogundade said IPC would team up with MRA to use the instrumentality of the law to challenge the absurdities perpetrated by NBC.