Going by the press release put out by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Tuesday, October 20, 2020, basically cautioning Nigerian broadcasting outlets not to publish news that might potentially embarrass the country, the recent sanctions placed on African Independent Television (AIT), Channels Television and Arise TV requiring a fee up to three million Naira for each station, makes sense.
GUIDELINES ON THE COVERAGE OF CRISIS. pic.twitter.com/Oj4icOiRKG
— nbcgovng (@nbcgovng) October 20, 2020
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) October 26, 2020
Is it justified? Ethical? Helpful to the current social-cultural state of Nigeria? All of these are unlikely, but here we are.
These sanctions which are being placed on the grounds of these stations broadcasting hate and inciting content is a threat to free speech. It also poses a grave danger for and a possible deterrent to unbiased stations like Arise TV that has been active, covering the End Sars movement when other major media houses refused to.
Through the help of stations like Arise TV, the movement was sufficiently amplified, its progress and reach given the attention and publicity it needed. With some of their reporters braving the most dangerous situations – often incited by alleged state-sponsored thugs who were consistent in trying to make the peaceful protests volatile and out of control- just to document an important time in history, this is unfair muffling of a voice that refused to stay silent when its counterparts conveniently ignored the cries of young Nigerians asking for change.
So what would this come to mean going forward? What does this say about the fears young Nigerians have been nursing about state facilitated processes to silence the #EndSARS movement. This latest development reinforces these fears and they certainly don’t fall in line with the government’s declaration of peaceful resolutions and zero involvement in disrupting the protests.
Regardless of whatever turn this development takes, we must bear in mind that the line between determining what constitutes as hateful content is blurry and susceptible to subjective definitions. These sanctions are unnecessary, they are instead, a threat to free speech.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.