Former President Atiku Abubakar has faulted the N5m fine slammed on Nigerian Info 99.3fm Lagos over an interview it granted to Dr. Obadiah Mailafia.
The Waziri Adamawa in a statement on Thursday said that the fine was an attempt to gag the media, use the instruments of of hate speech prevention as a means of constricting free speech.
The former Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said that the fact that Mailafia was invited by the Department of State Security (DSS) and released shows that what he said was not injurious to national security.
He further advised NBC to drag Mailafia to court if they are not satisfied with the DSS investigation instead of imposing a fine on the radio station. He asked the broadcast regulator to review the fine as it is against the principle of free speech.
He said, “In a particular reference to the penalty handed down to the operators of 99.3 FM Nigeria Info, we disagree wholeheartedly with the argument of the NBC that the interview that the station had with Dr. Obadiah Mailafia constitutes any infringement or if at all it exposes the station to trading in hate speech.
“Whether or not what Dr. Mailafia said on the radio station was a false claim, it is outside of the objectives of a responsible regulatory framework to sanction a radio station for a comment an individual made, more so that the personality in question, Dr. Obadiah, had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents. If for any reason the authorities are not satisfied with his explanations, they are at liberty to prosecute him in court, but not to make a scapegoat of the media platform that provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.
“The claim by the management of NBC that “this (the penalty) is expected to serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations in Nigeria who are quick to provide platform for subversive rhetorics and expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims, to desist from such”, is a naked attempt to gag the media in Nigeria.
“We, therefore, call on the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to cause a review of the hate speech prohibition code 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.
“We also demand of the NBC to drop the penalty against the operators of 99.3 Nigeria Info FM on account of the fact that the penalty is at best ill thought out”.
Atiku pointed out that one of the core functions of the mass media is to inform the society on all ranges of issues including national security issues adding that the mass media has a role to play in ensuring that all possible shades of opinions are given access to the media platform.
He further said that in many advanced democracies, even criminals on the wanted lists have reached out to the media to express their opinions about the crimes that they had perpetrated.
“It seems somewhat contradictory that a country like ours, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information . It is not known if any society had won the war against terrorism by placing a restriction to access to information, in the way the NBC had done”.
He stressed that Nigerian media has been in the vanguard of the fight against military rule and restoration of a democratic order and expressed disappointment that under the watch of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the media is, yet again, being targeted for extermination.