The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has appealed to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to apply caution when acting on petitions of political parties against media organizations.
The appeal came against the backdrop of the sanction against Channels TV by the NBC after a petition was written against the news channel by one of the All Progressives Party (APC)‘s Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC) spokesperson for airing an interview with the Vice Presidential Candidate of the Labor Party (LP), Alhaji Datti Baba Ahmed that was allegedly inciting.
Channels TV was slammed a penalty of N5 million by the broadcasting control body and further warned against airing any content that could incite the public to violence following the Datti’s interview.
Speaking at the monthly review of the NHRC’s Mobilising Voters for Elections (MOVE) Programme on Monday in Abuja, Commission’s Project Coordinator, Hilary Ogbonna noted that freedom of the press is an important feature of democracy and actions that may be construed as gagging it must be avoided.
He noted that the manner in which some media organisations were recently sanctioned by the government over complaints made by political parties, is creating negative narrative on the democratic process in the country.
He said the speed at with which sanction was imposed on Channels TV station just five days after a complaint was made through a petition against it was wrong, adding that such quick action was capable of sending wrong signal to the public and international community that thorough investigation was not carried out.
According to him, the NHRC is not questioning the right of sister government agencies to carry out their statutory responsibilities but said caution should be exercised when petitions written by politically exposed persons are involved.
He said as the body saddled with the protection of human rights in the country, the National Human Rights Commission found it is expedient to advise sister government agencies to promote human rights in the country rather than impede rights of citizens.
The NHCR Project Coordinator added that due to the crucial roles played by the media, sanction should be the last resort when it concerns the sector.
In his opening speech, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the briefing was the fourth in the series of the efforts of NHRC to bring the media up to speed with what was being done to ensure that those tracked to have made hate speech, violated the rights of citizens and other actions that hindered access and participation at the just concluded elections were brought to book.
He called on Nigerians and others living in the country to continue to maintain the peace as that is the only way to engender development of the country.
The NHRC boss thanked the media, the Ford Foundation, UN bodies and other partners for the successes recorded so far in tracking those that undermine the just concluded elections.