The MFWA is deeply concerned about the suspension “until further notice” of two broadcast stations in Nigeria in what appears to be a politically motivated crackdown.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria’s media regulator, on June 6, 2019, suspended the license of DAAR Communications PLC, operators of the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM, owned by Raymond Dokpesi, a leading member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
The media regulator alleged in a statement on June 6, that the two stations had “embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government and the NBC.” The regulator also accused the stations of failure to meet some financial obligations to it.
Following previous acts of harassment from the NBC, DAAR Communications PLC had on May 3, 2019, filed an ex parte motion (a petition asking the court to temporarily restrain the regulator from shutting down their broadcast stations). Fortunately, the order was granted on June 7 – just a day after the NBC shut down AIT and RayPower FM.
However, the media regulator have deployed armed security officers who have refused to vacate the stations’ premises, despite the ex parte order granted to DAAR Communications.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned the shutdowns and called on the NBC to reopen the stations “within 24 hours.”
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists is alarmed at the closure of AIT by the National Broadcasting Commission and believes that the action portends grave danger for Free Press and Independent Media,” the NUJ said in statement signed by Chris Isiguzo and Shuaibu Usman Leman, President and National Secretary respectively.
This is the second time in three months that broadcast regulator has closed down a media house. On March 1, 2019, the NBC shut down Jay FM, a private radio station in Jos, Plateau State for an alleged breach of broadcasting code of conduct.
The MFWA understands that the operators of AIT and RayPower FM indeed owe licence fees to the NBC and recognises the need for media organisations to comply with regulatory requirements including discharging their financial obligations to the regulator. However, it is clear from the present case that the media organisations are being targeted more for their dissident editorial lines than for any other infraction.
We, therefore, call for transparency and policy coherence in enforcement of penalties against defaulting media houses rather that this discretionary approach which borders on arbitrariness. We also call on the authorities to withdraw the armed security forces from the stations’ premises.