The West Africa Media Lawyers Association (WAMELA) has condemned the N9million fine imposed on Arise News Channel, Channels Television and Africa Independent Television (AIT) by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) for covering the ENDSARS protest.
The NBC has since its announcement of the N3million fine on each of the three television stations come under attack as the likes of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaibe, amongst others, have criticised the commission for trying to suppress the constitutional rights of the media stations by such illegal sanction.
WAMELA in a statement issued yesterday and signed by its President, Mr. Noah Ajare, criticised NBC for imposing fines on the media stations for covering an event that was of national interest to the citizens and the West African sub-region.
It also demanded the commission to immediately reverse the order imposing the fines on the three media houses, as such an order has no place in a democratic society and on account of the fact that the penalty was at best, ill-thought out and inappropriate at the moment.
WAMELA also called for “a review of the Broadcasting Code, which is the basis for the fine abinitio, because the very interpretation of same is offensive to the notion of free speech which is an essential ingredient of participatory democracy that Nigeria operates.
WAMELA said: “This is our stand as a coalition of media rights lawyers. The NBC should immediately reverse this order against Arise TV, AIT and Channels TV. It is obvious that this is done in bad faith and clearly to gag the press.
“The Nigerian Constitution guarantees Nigerian’s rights to receive information. In this instance the #endsars protest was clearly news that was necessary for Nigerians to be informed about.”
“It is unfortunate that the Commission is more worried about the government getting embarrassed for a factual situation which was witnessed live by a lot of Nigerians who were on the internet and who saw the @Nigerian government murder its citizens at #lekkitollgate than the fact that this was a real event which should not have taken place in the first place if the government had exercised restraint and ensured that the grievances of these amazing peaceful protesters were completely met”.