Following the outcome of the Endsars protest embarked upon by the Nigerian youths last month, the government has renewed its long held desire to clamp down on the media through its avowed commitment to regulate the social media. This agenda has not gone down well with the generality of the people and sign posts are ominous for the press and media practitioners if the government is allowed to have its way.
Shortly after the crisis that engulfed the nation the government has wielded the big stick to hit three media organizations in the broadcasting industry. The AIT, the Channels TV and TVC were fined a total of N9m for broadcasting news item and showing images sourced from the social media which is suspected to be false. Consequently the government is fine tuning arrangement to deal with the social media.
Much as we are not lending support to any form of irregularity in the discharge of professional activities we will caution that government exercise caution in its regulatory actions so that it does not hurt or shoot itself in the leg. There is need for proper scrutiny of its intended actions which should be deeply weighed against many other circumstances.
Need we remind the government of the sacred role of the media as the watchdog of the society, the fourth estate of the realm playing critical role not only in agenda setting but strengthening governance. The social media eases information flow and helps the government to ascertain the heart beats of the people on social issues.
The government is reputed for selfish reasons to be hoarding information. For how long will the government continue in this show of shame? Every government promises to provide the best for its people but we cannot do away with information which is critical to good governance. It is through the media that the government gets a feedback which aids it to draw agenda that supports its policies.
There is the Freedom of Information law. There is also the right to free speech. Freedom of expression guarantees a successful democratic process. The media obviously is the engine of democracy that helps it to thrive. Government by any means should be supportive of the media rather than always seeking to hound it. But it is pertinent to ask why the government is afraid of criticisms when that is supposed to be its mirror.
Social media like in other countries have been so supportive of the governments and society. It is called citizenship media. It is recognized and allowed to thrive. Curiously too, the officials of the present government who are now clamouring to clampdown on the social media were people who leaned on the utility of social media to climb to power.
News Echo frowns seriously at the situation where the government decides to capitalize on the error committed by the broadcasting houses to punish them so heavily. It sounds like giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. We caution on journalists and media houses to exercise due diligence in the exercise of their professional functions.
The efforts of government hiding under the guise of checkmating falsehood by regulating social media to hound the press flies in the face of the fact that at no time even before the existing laws was there no falsehood. This is the reason there are existing rules to take care of infractions arising from any breach.
It is on account of these that we have laws on sedition and libel and other laws which has been taking care of any likely falsehood. Any attempt to inflict negative action on the media will certainly have a backlash on our fledgling democracy. It is on account of this that we support the present action of the civil rights group challenging the government over its decisions.
Slamming such humongous charge appears to be an over kill. We are not aware that any previous infraction on same had been committed by the same culprits. We are of the view that appropriate warning should have sufficed than the fine. We sue for a mutually harmonious government media relationship.
Any form of muscling the media whose duty is providing opportunity for people to ventilate their minds on disturbing issues will threaten and collapse our democracy. The people will likely resist such and their actions may not mean well for the government. The EndSARS protest has provided enough lessons learning curve which should not be ignored.