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Concern over Nigeria's plan to reform broadcast industry

Concern over Nigeria's plan to reform broadcast industry

Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed has announced several measures the government plans to implement to reform the broadcasting industry, which include the licensing of online radio, web TVs and foreign broadcasters.

Mohammed told members of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), which has appealed for a review of the Broadcasting Code, that the Presidency has approved the move in a bid to "bring sanity into this industry".

He added that the license is not a ploy by the administration to gag the media and appealed to the press "to please self-regulate for the sake of this country and also for the sake of the industry itself".

The licensing terms are yet to be disclosed and digital rights advocacy group, Paradigm Initiative (PI), have reacted with concern over the extent the regulatory measures will have on n citizens' access to freedom of expression.

PI's executive director Gbenga Sesan said: "The plan to license is clearly from the place of control. They either want to shut out content like Biafra that they have tagged separatist and terrorist (following proscription of IPOB), and also prevent groups like the Islamic Movement of Nigeria from taking advantage of online channels for communication... but given the context of the rise in clampdown against opposing voices that Nigeria has seen more of recently, this is clearly another move to either force broadcasters to self-censor or to outrightly keep unfriendly voices away from the Nigerian broadcast space."

Sesan is particularly concerned that there would be no way that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) "will not overstep as it has often done" in its bid to make everyone comply with the proposed measure.

"We await government on the other side of this new regulatory environment," he added "and can assure the NBC - and other agencies -that any attempt to further close the civic space, and restrict the opportunity that online channels provide for freedom of expression, will be met with adequate legal challenges."

In June 2018, the country's parliament had a long spat with media rights advocates and pressure groups after considering a Bill introduced to regulate social media.

Though the bill has since been withdrawn, there are continued calls by government representatives - including from the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Rivers State governor, Ben Ayade, to regulate social media use.

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