Civil society organisations expressed mixed reactions as the National Broadcasting Commission fined Arise TV for airing fake reports about the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
NBC on Monday fined Arise TV N2m for breaching the broadcasting code.
Reacting, the Executive Director, Transition Monitoring Group, Auwal Rafsanjani, urged media houses to verify news before pushing them out.
He, however, noted that sanctioning Arise TV was not fair since the media house had apologised.
Rafsanjani said, “It is important that we try as much as possible to verify the information before it is sent out. However, the idea of trial by all means to sanction to media station over a report that did not emanate from it is not balanced and not also fair, especially when the media had openly come out to openly apologise.
“I think the NBC is just trying to show that it is working but that is not the only way to show that you’re actually working. If the media had denied or refuse to apologise, that is a different thing.
“The apology should have been taken in good faith. We don’t need to monetise or commercialise every aspect of our life.
On his part, the Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, expressed disappointment at the publication by Arise TV, which it said its owners and staff had enough experience than to make such mistake.
“Owners and staff of Arise TV are supposed to be thorough-bred journalists. And the rule in journalism is that ‘when you’re in doubt, leave out.’ It is not just one way that you can crosscheck a material before you use it as your content.
“As a matter of fact, they should have their own personnel in places where these news are breaking. There was no point in them rushing to the press with news that they knew could be libelous and scandalous because of the experience they had garnered over the years.
“Yes, they have made that mistake. It is good enough that they have been so humble to apologise, but then, if the rules of the NBC says that anybody that broadcast fake news should be sanctioned, then they should be sanctioned, at least, it would deter others who want to rush to the press.
“Everybody that had done that whether or not with the intention of embarrassing the subject of the issue, if they had violated the rule of ethics, they should be made to face the law,” Adeniran told The PUNCH.
Arise TV had apologised on Sunday after reporting that the Independent National Electoral Commission was investigating Tinubu over alleged criminal forfeiture of money on offenses bordering on narcotics and illicit drugs.
The sanction, however, came after the APC Presidential Campaign Council had petitioned the NBC on Monday, demanding sanctions against Arise TV and Channels Television for airing the report.
The APC’s demand was made in a petition signed by the special adviser on Media, Communications and Public Affairs of the PCC, Dele Alake, and addressed to the Director-General of the NBC, Balarabe Ilelah.
He said, “The case in question, which did not indict our candidate, has since been overtaken by events after interrogation and correspondences between the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, in 2003 and the United States government.
“The US Justice Department in a letter dated February 4, 2003, issued by the Lagos Consulate of the United States Embassy cleared our candidate. The letter was signed by Michael Bonner, the Consulate’s legal attaché.
“The Campaign Council was therefore surprised that certain media houses, such as ARISE News and Channels TV among others, went ahead to transmit and broadcast issues purportedly indicting our candidate in violation of section 3,3 I of the Code which says that ‘The Broadcaster shall ensure that any information given in a programme in whatever form is accurate.
“We believe that the operators of the stations, by their professional standing, should have access to research platforms to verify information before dishing it to the public,” the petition partly read.
Alake further accused both stations of using the already cleared document in their interviews of Festus Keyamo and spokesman for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, respectively.
The petition stated that both stations went further to broadcast a fake letter in circulation, purportedly issued by INEC, stating that the electoral body was investigating Tinubu.
“Notwithstanding the broadcast of the falsehood peddled by opposition elements, Arise TV and Channels TV went ahead to transmit and circulate a fake letter insinuating that INEC had initiated an investigation of the APC presidential candidate premised on the fake letter in circulation.
“Section 5.1.2 states that the broadcaster shall present news as factual and in correct and fair manner without distortion, exaggerations or misrepresentation while Section 5.1.3 further states that ‘fake news is prohibited.’
“The fake INEC letter has been proven to be fake and this breach is tantamount to disinformation.
“Arise TV has admitted guilt to this in a broadcast few days ago. We make bold to say that in 2014 the AIT transmitted a TV documentary “The Lion of Bourdillon” to which the NBC sanctioned it and it apologised to the victim.
“However, only last week, a chieftain of the PDP, Chief Bode George, in an interview on Arise TV, referred to materials from the documentary to vilify our presidential candidate in breach of the code and the apology granted the victim.
“These breaches attract a sanction of Class B and we implore the NBC to invoke the aforementioned sections to penalise Arise TV and Channels TV for breach of the broadcast code. Section 5.3.3 of the code states that, “The Broadcaster shall (b) in using political materials for news and current affairs programmes, avoid hate speech, inflammatory, derogatory and divisive remarks or allusions,” he said.