SEVERAL Nigerian television stations have been fined by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for inciting youths to violence during the #EndSARS protests that has led to widespread demonstrations across the country.
On Tuesday last week, men of the Nigerian Army opened fire on protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos, killing scores, although the actual death count has still not been ascertained. It is believed that the soldiers took the corpses of the deceased away with them, making it hard for there to be a definitive body count.
However, the shooting has led to widespread condemnation both home and abroad, with demands for an inquiry into what happened. Following the incident, there has been widespread rioting and looting across Nigeria, with government facilities being targeted by angry youths.
Today, another twist was added to the saga, with the NBC fining Channels Television, Arise Television and Africa Independent Television for what it termed unprofessional coverage of the protests. Professor Armstrong Idachaba, the NBC acting director-general announced that the stations helped incite violence.
Last week, NBC warned all television and radio stations against reporting the #EndSARS protests in a manner that could embarrass the government or private individuals or cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society. NBC said its reports indicated that at the early stages of the conflict the broadcast industry largely gave fair and balanced coverage to the issues but later on departed from their neutrality.
An NBC spokesman said: “This trend became completely reversed when violence, wanton destruction and looting were added to the dimensions. Perhaps in the eagerness to break news and be pace setters stations engaged in the very unprofessional attitude of speculative and unverifiable broadcast.
“In contemporary times, the impact of modern technology has significantly enabled citizen’s contribution to journalism, which are beneficial to broadcasting. In this genre of citizens reportage, deploys such facilities as User Generated Content, providing instantaneous eye-witness Account of events.
“Such technological benefits place further demand on the broadcaster to be more cautious of its editorial responsibility. News materials sent in by public must be vetted by a broadcaster who has editorial responsibility.”