The Standing Committee of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called for an expedited review of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) act, arguing that the rules guiding the operations of the media regulatory agency must now reflect current realities in the industry.
NGE’s demand for a rejig of the law setting up the body followed the sanctions slammed on Arise TV, Channels and AIT as a result of the broadcast stations’ coverage of the EndSARS protests, which the commission said was “unprofessional”.
The body of senior journalists also demanded what it termed “absolute transparency” in the judicial probe panels being set up by various state governments on the EndSARS protests, saying that any attempt at cover-up will be unacceptable.
In a communiqué signed by its President, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, after a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the NGE further called for the speedy passage of the electoral act to enhance fairness in the country’s electoral processes.
“Inasmuch as the guild respects the disciplinary mandate of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over broadcasting stations’ operations, it also implores the government to always take a second look at perceived infractions by some stations before applying sanctions. Fines should be the last resort.
“The guild therefore, calls for an immediate review of the NBC Act, in view of current realities in the media world. We know the government is already working on this but, this action must be expedited in the interest of professionalism, fairness and justice,” the NGE stated.
It stated that having examined the recent unrest across the nation in the past few weeks, it was apt to condemn the hijack of the peaceful protests by hoodlums in many states, insisting that the five-point demands of the peaceful protesters were genuine and patriotic.
While condemning the hijack of the demonstrations which it said led to arson, looting, destruction and bestial killings of law-abiding citizens and security agents which portrayed Nigeria in a bad light, the organisation flayed the government for the display of aggression against peaceful protesters, especially at the Lekki Tollgate.
According to the NGE, the attack on the media and journalists during the crisis, whereby scores of vehicles were burnt at the premises of several of them, namely Television Continental (TVC) Lagos, Newspapers in Lagos, The Chronicles in Calabar and in Lokoja where a correspondent of Newspapers was shot, is condemnable.
“ Amidst the threat to its operations, some television stations had to go off air temporarily for fear of invasion by hoodlums. The guild wishes to remind all Nigerians that the media contributed immensely to the democracy being enjoyed in the country today.
“The media has never shied away from protecting the interest of Nigerians, even in the face of threats from some state actors.
“Given that the media is also just coming out of a distressed status caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, these unjustified attacks by hoodlums will in no small way affect the financial status of many media establishments negatively,” it said.
The editors noted that now that many state governments have set up panels to investigate what went amiss during the crisis, it is time for the panels to look into real grievances of the people, especially acts of human rights violation during the crisis.
“The guild demands absolute transparency and accountability in the outcomes of the ongoing panels and would detest a cover-up of those found culpable in human rights violations against Nigerians, as recorded with previous panels.
“The guild urges the president to sign the new electoral law as Nigerians prepare for the 2023 general election. The guild appeals to youths to suspend any further public protest because their point had been made,” it stressed.
It expressed the belief that the police are overstretched in the face of security challenges in the country, as manifested in the lynching of policemen by mobs, sometimes in very gruesome circumstances.
“The unfortunate event of these past few weeks should propel the government to expedite action on police reforms, as promised by the president and, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he should immediately restore public order,” the association stated.