Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
The Federal Government on Wednesday warned broadcast stations in the country against picking results of the forthcoming elections from the social media.
It said the Independent National Electoral commission remained the only official source of election results.
The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Is’haq Kawu, gave the warning on behalf of the Federal Government at a press briefing in Abuja.
Kawu said any television or radio station that violated the order would be sanctioned.
He also disclosed the commission’s readiness to sanction some television stations in the country over what he called hate speech.
He attributed the crises that characterised the 1983 general elections in the country to the release of unauthorised results by broadcast stations.
He said, “No reports or results must be released by broadcast stations from the social media until the Independent National Electoral Commission must have released such results.
“The results of the 1983 elections were released before the commission released its results and this led to a lot of crises. This must not happen in 2019.”
Kawu said four television stations had already been listed for sanctions.
He listed the affected stations as the Africa Independent Television, Channels Television, Nigerian Television Authority and Television Continental News.
He said letters had been sent to the affected organisations notifying them about their offences and fine.
“There are new entries into the Nigerian Broadcasting Code. The sixth edition of the code contains very strong entries about hate and dangerous speech and the consequence of broadcasting in the country,” he added.
He said the commencement of campaigns on October 18 made the national stations to become agog with sponsored live rallies, debates and campaigns by political parties, particularly the two main ones- the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
Regrettably, he said the commission had observed through monitoring of the stations that politicians “have refused to learn from mistakes of the past despite efforts of the NBC to sensitise and remind them of their responsibilities.”
He added, “We monitored live rallies and campaigns of the parties and in recent times, live political rallies of political parties have been laced with indecent and abusive language, name calling and vehement allegations and use of hate speech.
“For instance, on January 10, 2019, at the presidential campaign rally of the PDP broadcast by the AIT, the national chairman of the party accused INEC of rigging previous elections and threatened crisis if elections were rigged.
“Some of the excerpts were: ‘We want to warn INEC, all the previous elections you rigged and you escaped, the 2019 elections, you cannot escape unless you want to cause crisis in Nigeria. Let us warn Prof Yakubu; if you want to cause crisis in Nigeria, rig the elections. If you want peace, elections must be free and fair.’ That is from The PDP.
“At a live APC governorship rally held on Friday, January 3, 2019, and aired on the NTA, a stalwart of the APC, Rotimi Amaechi, was quoted as saying: ‘I will just continue to say the truth. The truth I will tell you is that they are telling Nigerians that Nigerians are hungry. Indeed, if Nigerians are hungry, if these people left money they stole, will Nigerians be hungry? Exactly the $2bn that they stole. At least, I know about that one, we will not be here today.’
“The party chairman also added: ‘You must remember that the last PDP government turned Plateau workers to slaves and so on and so forth.’
“The expressions in the excerpts captured, can be seen to be abusive and not decent for broadcast contrary to certain sections of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code: 525, 533.”
He said further, “So, based on the foregoing, the four main channels that have been broadcasting: the AIT, the TVC News, Channels TV and the NTA, are culpable and contravening the provisions of the Code on Political Broadcast in line with the provisions of Sections 524 of the Code.”
He said television stations would be held responsible for abuses from those speaking on live broadcast.
Kawu also called on broadcast station owners to get equipment that could either detect hate speech or delay such speech a little in order to get them edited.
“Technology can help. You can take away bad words. You can have a delayed mechanism to checkmate the (live telephone) callers.
“We will follow the code in sanctioning the stations, though some stations now add money for the expected sanction to the amount they charge people on their live coverage.
“What the politicians say on such live programmes is not my business, but the duty or essence of the broadcasting code is what I am after,” he said.