The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined 3 media houses – Channels Television, Arise TV and AIT over their coverage of the EndSARS protests.
According to the commission, the media houses committed a gross violation of the broadcast code by using unverifiable online video footages on social media.
The announcement was made by the NBC acting Director-General, Prof Armstrong Idachaba during a press conference in Abuja today.
Over 2 weeks ago, a video of a fatal police shooting of a Nigerian man sparked a protest calling for the dissolution the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS).
In the first 3 days, #EndSARS was the No 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide, amassing nearly 5 million tweets and more than 100 million engagements.
The protest which initially started on social media quickly moved to the streets of Nigeria, with hundreds of thousands of protesters trouping out to demand an end to the rogue SARS unit and to police brutality.
When the protest hit the streets, traditional news media were initially sluggish in covering the proceedings and for some time social media was the only major platform for reporting. About the second day of protest, Arise TV started covering the protest with Channels TV and other news stations son followed.
Arise TV trended on Twitter during the protest because, according to many online protesters, it was the only media house giving live and factual coverage of what was happening as they unfolded.
Soon all media channels foreign and domestic were airing the #EndSARS peaceful protest as it spread from Lagos to other parts of the country. Channels TV had a reporter on ground at major protest venues in Lagos while also covering proceedings in other states.
NBC Cautions News Agencies
Following the reports of shooting and crackdown of peaceful protesters, the NBC released guidelines for coverage of protests and crisis to media houses. The timing of the release attracted a lot of suspicions as it appeared more as a warning than a guideline.
The current fine imposed on several media houses shows now that the press release tendered then was more of a warning to restrict coverage.
Channels, Arise TV, AIT fined
The guidelines released state that “The Broadcaster shall approach with restraints, the use of materials from user generated sources in order not to embarrass individuals, organisations, government or cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society at large.”
According to the above guideline, the use of social media content was not banned only restricted. So the reason for fining the media houses for using online social media video appears unfounded.
While the NBC hasn’t shown the materials to be unverified, there’s no denying that the coverage has embarrassed many individuals, organisations and most especially, governments. This raises the question of which is more important to the NBC; factual reporting or how that reporting makes the government feel.
According to the acting DG of NBC the N3 million fine is the last warning before a heavier sanction will be introduced.