PRESIDENT Mohammadu Buhari, through the Nigeria broadcast regulator, NBC is set to shut down the operations of one of Nigeria’s most popular television stations, Channels TV over interviews granted to the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, and a retired Commodore of the Nigerian Navy, Kunle Olawunmi.
The federal government had issued a directive to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to suspend the license of Channels TV for airing the two “unpleasant” interviews. It also ordered the arrest of a journalist, Chamberlain Usoh and his colleagues who conducted the interview.
“Channels TV license is to be suspended by the Federal Government over the interview of Governor Ortom and retired naval personnel. There is also an order for the arrest of journalist Chamberlain and his colleagues, who are anchors of the program. They are to be brought to Abuja tomorrow”
In the said interviews, Gov Ortom had unleashed a diatribe on what he described as the “Buhari Fulanisation Agenda” while the former Naval chief claimed that the government had the names of Boko Haram sponsors provided by the United Arab Emirates which investigated several sponsors.
According to the source, rather than refute the allegations by the two senior members of the state, the government has decided to tow the more nefarious line of attacking the constitutional rights of the media and journalists to practice their profession.
This would be the second time Channels TV would be hit by government’s regulatory hammer in 4 months. In April, the TV station was suspended and slammed a hefty N5 million fine after it aired an interview with a spokesperson of the proscribed seccionist sect, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
According to the DG of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, the broadcast company didn’t caution or reprimand the IPOB spokesperson for making derogatory and misleading statements about the Nigerian Army. He also said airing the interview breached the broadcast code.
The federal government, under president Muhammadu Buhari have run an agenda many have described as anti-free speech and anti-media. In October, at the height of the #EndSARS protests, the NBC slammed a N3 million fine on Channels, Arise TV and AIT for ‘unprofessional coverage’ of the protests.
Recently, the Nigerian legislature is putting forward a media bill which will be an amendment of the National Broadcasting Commission Bill and the Nigerian Press Council Act. The bill prescribes stiff sanctions against journalists who carry news established to be fake.
The Bill has since been condemned by media practitioners, international press associations and civil rights organisations for being too repressive and for being a government ploy to criminalise journalism.
Finally, the FG banned the operations of popular microblogging platform, Twitter in June after the social medium deleted an offensive tweet by president Muhammadu Buhari. The platform has remained banned for nearly three months with the country losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
While there are reported efforts at reversing the ban, with government representatives claiming they are at the cusp of reaching a deal with Twitter, a recent report claims that a resolution is nowhere in sight.
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