NBC And The People’s Freedom Of Speech, By Charles Ideho
Recently, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) announced that it would henceforth fine broadcast stations a sum of N500,000 for any “perceived” hate-speech expressed by callers during phone-in programmes; although one wonders who determines what hate-speech is since there is no universally acceptable definition for the compounded word yet.
The new rule, which took effect on October 1, 2017, was communicated to media houses on August 10 during a meeting held at the Commission’s Zonal Office at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
At the meeting, the zonal Director of NBC, Matthew Okoduwa, had expressed profound worry for the comments some Nigerians make during phone-in segments of live programmes. He blamed presenters and show anchors for giving people the opportunity to air hateful statements on live shows.
According to Okoduwa, he understood that many Nigerians were angry and frustrated about the state of the nation, but emphasized that hate-speech was not the way to express such frustration. He warned that the country had become very volatile, hence media houses needed to control the kind of comments Nigerians were allowed to make on television and radio broadcasts.
In Okoduwa’s wisdom (only God knows where he got that brand of wisdom from), he felt that allowing listeners and viewers to make contributions to radio or television programmes’s newspaper reviews could set the country ablaze! The wisdom of man at work here!
But I ask, which is better for government to do: shut down people’s collective voice from having a say in how they are governed, or aggregate the different shades of people’s opinions to set government’s machinery in proper motion and earn their praises for doing what is right?
I am not, I have never been and never would be a fan of ex-President Jonathan’s. But that man holds the national record of the “Most Insulted Nigerian Leader”, yet he never asked the myopic NBC to bare its fangs against listeners to radio or viewers of television programmes. Therein lies the minus, by my estimation, of the APC government that rode to victory on a collective popular mandate of Nigerians who were told that thenceforth, things would be done differently, a total departure from the past. But I am yet to see that happening, two years on.
As I write this, popular phone-in programmes on radio which hitherto empowered the people to speak out on how governance affects them, are being yanked off the airwaves, many would follow in the days to come.
What does this signify? It’s indeed, and has the semblance of birthing an irritant government that once wooed the people for their votes only to turn out to wield the big stick to lacerate their famished bare backs where it is not necessary.
Here’s my last line: If you like, throw jabs at me and brand me a new entrant to the wailers’ club (whatever that means), the fact remains that ordering radio stations to stop listeners from calling in to popular programmes is tantamount to muzzling the people’s rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression.
Therefore, we must rise up and fight against this gradual but surreptitious introduction of democratic tyranny in our body politic.
I remain Charles Ideho, an Advocate For Good Governance and Better Deal For the Nigerian People.