The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has described a recent directive by the federal government over newspaper reviews and other current affairs programmes by local television stations as a “subtle threat to free press, freedom of expression, access to information, and victims’ right to justice, which are essential to public debate and accountability in a democratic space.”
The Guild took a tough stance against the government’s directive purportedly warning the media against including some details of the activities of criminals in their reports.
Recently, the federal government had through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued a directive titled, “Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution,” warned broadcasters against glamorising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers during their daily newspaper reviews.
However, the NGE in a statement jointly signed by the National President, Mustapha Isah, and Secretary-General, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, condemned the NBC’s position, stating that “Nigerian journalists, especially its members, are not terrorists and bandits’ best friends.”
It added that while journalists “will never be disposed to giving the bloodthirsty criminals any exposure,” the media will continue in its efforts to help the country overcome its current security challenges.
“Giving the fact that journalists have a responsibility to help the country cope with the prevailing threat and consequences of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism in Nigeria, they will continue to be responsible and responsive in their reports,” the statement stated.
Condemning the NBC directive signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the DG of the Commission, Balarabe IIeah, NGE expressed concerns at the growing anti-media policy of the commission.
It said, “Its members are concerned about what the commission means by the expansive definitions of what may constitute ‘’too many details’’, ‘’glamorising’’, ‘’divisive rhetoric’’, and ‘’security issues’’ in its directive.
‘’We hope it is not a ploy by the NBC to ban newspapers review in broadcasting stations. Because the content of the directive doesn’t specify what kind of conduct would fall within their realm. It is our view that the role of independent, critical, and trustworthy journalism has never been more important than now in our country,” the Guild explained.
The Guild added that Nigerian media are very mindful of their responsibility in the current collective efforts to address the security challenges in the country, adding that the relationship between the security agencies and the media has been more respectful and trustworthy along with this mission in the past few years.
NGE added, ‘’While we are mindful of our responsibility at this trying moment of our nation, we must also not lose the ability to see that security, in a democratic nation, is not an end in itself.
‘’Its single purpose is to protect the capability of institutions, including the media, to guarantee citizens the free exercise of their fundamental human rights, without discrimination.
‘’History has revealed time and again that efforts to increase security through the clampdown of liberty and freedom have threatened both liberty and security.”
NGE reiterated that there is no security without free media and free expression, and no free expression and free media without security, saying these two terms should come hand in hand and not fight each other in the general interest of the nation.
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