Lawyers have disclosed their stand on the review of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, code, saying that the commission lacks the powers to institute criminal proceedings for any offence.
This reaction amidst many more reactions have trailed the latest review of the NBC code.
The reviewed code which was released last week, culminated in the N5 million imposed by the commission against Nigerian Info, 99.3FM, for offering it’s platform to the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Obadiah Mailafia to make comments that a northern Governor was one of the commanders of the Boko Haram sect.
The former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mimi Walson-Jack reacted to this action saying that the NBC Act states clearly that the NBC has no power to institute or carry on criminal proceedings for any offence whether or not it relates to their functions.
He also said, “In the absence of any provision in the NBC Act, the NBC cannot make subsidiary legislation”.
“The NBC cannot create an offence in the Broadcasting Code, wherein it is the accuser, prosecutor, judge, and executor”.
“If the NBC’s Broadcast Code turned “Penal Code” is allowed to stand, then we would have a law that discriminates to the extent that what is hate speech and fake news on Radio and Television is not an offence in the print media world of newspapers and magazines”.
He further stated, “The attempt by NBC to create a non-existing offence of hate speech to strangulate free speech and free media is the exercise of impunity in the extreme”.
Questions have however arisen with many reactions like, Who determines what a hate speech is? What are the parameters for holding that a speech is hate speech? Who determines the punishment or liability?.
Kunle Edun, National Publicity Secretary for the NBA said, “This is an unconstitutional attempt at gagging the Press. The Press as the 4th Estate of the Realm plays the constitutional role of a watchdog of our democracy in the face of increasing impunity, seemingly official policy of disobedience of court orders, sheer exhibition of rascality by some of our security agencies and unbridled corruption in government. Gagging the press by imposition of fine or increasing the fine for hate speech by more than 900% is anti-people”.
However, lawyers think the radio station should proceed to court to challenge the imposition of the outrageous fine as they find it unconstitutional and a violation of the freedom of expression and press guaranteed by Section 39(1) of the constitution.