Punch Reports: Some lawyers have criticised the directive issued by the National Broadcasting Commission to television and radio stations in Nigeria not to report activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers.
The directive, issued in a letter dated July 7, 2021, faced opposition from media chiefs in the country who said they would not be deterred by it.
The media executives had advised the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to tackle the security challenges in the country and to desist from its attempts to gag the media through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
However, human rights lawyer and activist, Malachy Ugwummadu, said the NBC’s directive would hinder the constitutional rights of media practitioners.
He said, “Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vests in every Nigerian a right to freedom of expression. This right includes the right to receive, disseminate and enlighten the public with respect to available information.
“It is a fundamental right; it is also inalienable and cannot be made arbitrary. Note that Section 22 of the constitution imposes a specific responsibility on the press to hold the government accountable to the people. How can they do that when the government seeks to tie their hands? They can only do that by reporting sufficient information that will empower the people in the country.
“This is the main reason why the media is often referred to as the fourth arm of government. The Freedom of Information Act also empowers the media to access information and report it. What I am saying is that there are enough legislations and statutory provisions that regulate the practices of media practitioners.