The Civil Society for Legislative Advocacy Center, CISLAC has berated the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, over revocation of licenses of 52 media houses.
This was stated by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani while expressing displeasure over NBC’s action this critical times Nigerians need reliable information ahead of 2023 general elections as there are a lot of fake news overheating the polity.
Rafsanjani said: “At a time when Nigerians are relying on the media for public enlightenment and mobilization towards the 2023 General Elections, the timing of the revocation of the licenses of over 50 media houses may have been completely mistimed by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
“In this critical time, the NBC as an agency of government, ran by tax-payers money should prioritize citizens’ need and quest for consumption of concrete news over revenue generation through sales of licenses and frequencies.
“The inherent danger in this untimely clampdown is the potential to escalate reliance on social media and some unscrupulous outlets as news sources among a great number of citizens.
“This presents the risk of increased consumption of fake news towards the 2023 elections and would furthermore contribute to unnecessarily heating up of the polity against citizens’ yearning for peaceful elections.
He also pointed that the affected media houses are struggling to keep afloat amidst dwindling fortunes of the economy which they are directly affected to the high cost running their operations.
“They are mostly privately owned businesses that need to maintain a certain profit level to continue to be in business.
“Like every other business in other sectors, the news media industry is also faced with the impact of COVID-19 and are currently grappling with issues of dwindling revenues.
“One would expect that the NBC would factor some of these economic realities into its decision making.”
However, called for dialogue between NBC and the affected media organisations on the issues.
“We urge the NBC to prioritize citizens need for quality and concrete news sources towards the 2023 elections as a crucial step to minimize the spread of fake news which have been seen to be capable of disrupting peaceful coexistence and peaceful conduct of elections by reviewing its decision through dialogue with the news media industry.
“Parties should dialogue to review the rates in line with realities. Shutting down over 50 media houses in an electioneering period does not only deplete the efficiency of the media to perform its democratic functions, but is also detrimental to the quality of news that citizens can consume.
“While we do not encourage the failure of the affected media houses to renew their licenses, we strongly recommend for a dialogue with the NBC towards a review of the costs of license and frequency in Nigeria as it remains one of the highest in the ECOWAS subregion.
“In addition, there will be lost of jobs for thousands of Nigerians which will further create more social problems in Nigeria”, he said.
He also made it clear that CISLAC resists attempts to whittle down influence of the media in Nigeria.
“While we encourage a dialogue for review of the renewal costs in Nigeria and encourage the media houses to renew their licenses, we denounce very strongly, any politically motivated attempt to whittle down the critical influence of the media in Nigeria.
He also accused the Buhari-led administration of using NBC to gag the media, “The overall posture of the government of the day has also not been encouraging especially towards press freedom.