Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rejected the reviewed broadcast code being foisted by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government, describing it as another draconian measure to muzzle the media and suppress free speech in Nigeria.
The party alleged that APC and its government “adopted the reviewed code with its N5 million fine to intimidate the media and gag whistle blowers from further exposing the humongous corruption, abuse of office, violation of human rights as well as officials’ betrayal of trust and abuse of office in the Muhammadu Buhari administration.”
The opposition party further alleged that “the code is also a grand plot to suppress and muzzle Nigerians and the media from publicly opposing plots by the APC to mortgage the sovereignty of our dear nation to foreign interests as being witnessed in the anti-Nigeria clauses in the loan agreements with China.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had Tuesday unveiled the reviewed Nigeria Broadcasting Code which contains the antitrust provision aimed at boosting local content and encouraging the growth of the local industry, among other provisions.
In his remarks at the unveiling ceremony organised by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Lagos, the minister said the antitrust provision would boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intend to create monopolies and hold the entire market to themselves.
He added that the antitrust provision would also encourage open access to premium content.
”I must explain that this provision is not new to Nigeria Broadcasting. Exclusivity was disallowed at a certain time in the history of our broadcasting. I recall Multichoice sub-licensing EPL matches to other local operators in Nigeria. I recall HITV engaging several local operators on sub-licensing the EPL when they got the rights,” Mohammed said.
He explained that the revised code contains the law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts in order to promote sustainability for the station
owners and producers of content, as well as the law on registration of Web Broadcasting, which would grant the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that could harm the nation.
“The provisions on responsibility of broadcast stations to devote airtime to national emergencies…obviously mandates terrestrial and Pay TV channels to make their services available to Nigerians at time of national emergencies – like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – for their education and enlightenment,” the minister noted.
He said the amended code also includes the provision raising the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to 5 million.
Mohammed clarified that the amendments were necessitated by a
Presidential directive, in the wake of the 2019 general elections, for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the NBC with a view to repositioning the regulator for optimum performance.
He said despite the attacks by some vested interests, who believed that their singular business interest was superior to national interest, over the provisions of the amended code, the Federal Government remained unperturbed,
“But, as it currently stands, the 6th edition and the amendments, which we are unveiling today, remain the regulations for broadcasting in Nigeria. Our intention remains the good of the country. We need to catalyse the growth of the local industry. We need to create jobs for our teeming creative youths. The opportunities must be created and we believe that effective regulatory interventions are a sure way of
attaining this. That’s why we will not waver,” the minister said.
But, PDP, in a statement on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “The APC has been jittery over the stench of monumental corruption oozing out from its government as well as its anti-Nigeria activities, and now seeks to suppress public opinion and media reportage of their atrocities against our nation.”
PDP tasked Nigerians to note the alleged “APC administration rushed to review the broadcast codes and introduced draconian clauses at the height of public revelations and media reportage of its corruption and plots to mortgage our nation’s sovereignty to China.”
“The reviewed broadcast code therefore validates the stance by Nigerians that covering of corruption and the scheme to mortgage the sovereignty of our nation are official policies of the APC which has not denied that it is the headquarters of corruption.
“Our party however, wishes to inform the APC and its administration that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and other laws guiding media practice, which guarantees a free press and freedom of opinion by Nigerians are clear and that no matter how much the truth is suppressed, it must always come to light.
“Moreover, the APC must know that we are in a democracy and that Nigerians cannot be suppressed from exercising their rights of speaking out in the face of injustice, corruption, abuse of trust in the APC administration, which President Buhari had also admitted,” PDP alleged.
The party charged Buhari “to direct the Ministry of Information and Culture to retrace its steps and stop all acts that further acerbate the ugly situation in our country under the APC corrupt and anti-people administration.”