Nigeria: Arbitrary fines on media outlets violate press freedom

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the five million Naira (N5,000,000.00) fine imposed on media outlets Trust Television Network (Trust TV), NTA-StarTimes Limited, MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, and TelCom Satellite Limited (TStv) by the National Broadcast Commission (NBC) over documentaries on banditry in Nigeria. We call on Nigerian authorities to reconsider this decision, which violates press freedom and the right to information.

On 3 August, 2022, the NBC, through a letter from the Director General, imposed the fines on media outlets regarding the broadcast of documentaries about violence and theft in Nigeria. On 5 March 2022, Trust TV broadcasted a documentary entitled: ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story’. The other TV channels also broadcast a documentary made by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Africa Eye,‘Bandits Warlords of Zamfara’. According to the letter, the media violated sections of the Nigeria broadcasting code (6th edition, 2016), by allegedly promoting the activities of bandits and undermining Nigeria’s national security. The authorities referred to sections 3.1.1, 3.12.2, 3.11.2 which state that the media should not distribute content that incites or is likely to incite violence among the populace, causing mass panic, political and social upheaval or security breaches, among other disruptions. Furthermore, the letter stipulated that the fines must be paid by 30 August 2022. 

The fines were imposed after the Minister of Information Mr. Lai Mohammed threatened that the TV stations and the BBC will be sanctioned for broadcasting the documentaries.

“These sanctions constitute a violation of press freedom and are a form of censorship that deprives citizens of their right to freedom of expression and access to information, as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. The National Broadcast Commission should focus on prioritising press freedom, rather than taking draconian measures to muzzle independent broadcasts”, stated David Diaz-Jogeix, Senior Director of Programmes at ARTICLE 19.

Principle 17 of the Declaration of principles on freedom of expression and access to information in Africa stipulates that ‘a public regulatory authority that exercises powers in the areas of broadcast, telecommunications or internet infrastructure shall be independent and adequately protected against interference of a political, commercial or other nature.’

Nigerian authorities must adopt Principle 16 of the Declaration, which encourages States to enable media self-regulation.

Additionally, the process and procedure of sanctions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th edition, 2016) states that a warning should first be issued to remedy any breaches.

In this particular case, none of the sanctioned media outlets were notified with a warning.

For more information, please contact:

Maateuw Mbaye, Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Email:  T: +221785958337

Aissata Diallo Dieng, Office Manager, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Email:  T:+221338690322