Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain and former Delta state gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Sunny Onuesoke has reacted to the N5m fines slammed on Nigeria Info 93.3FM by Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) describing the action as an infringement on freedom of speech.
Emerald News reports that the NBC placed a fine of N5m on a radio station, Nigeria Info93.3FM over a statement of a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia who alleged during a radio programme that a northern state governor is a commander of the terror group, Boko Haram.
Onuesoke, who made the reaction while addressing newsmen at Abuja stated that the action of the media regulatory body is an infringement on the freedom of speech of Nigerians as enshrined in the constitution.
He explained that in a true democracy the citizens should be allowed to voice out their mind in as much as it did not infringe on the fundamental rights or cause damage to anyone, adding that who ever felt the speech is damaging to him or her should seek redress in the court.
“That is what the government should have done. Take the radio station to court, instead of blanket fine of N5m. If the NBC continues in this form, it is an indirect attempt to create fear on the media houses which is the mouth piece of the common man,” he stated.
The PDP chieftain argued that it is somewhat contradictory that a country like Nigeria, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information.
He pointed out that it is globally acknowledged that one of the core functions of the mass media is to inform the society on all ranges of issues, not even to the exclusion of 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.
Onuesoke further argued that 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.
Describing the action of NBC to pregnant woman who midwife her pregnancy and deliver herself of a baby, the PDP chieftain said it is undemocratic for the board to charge a suspect with criminal offences, prosecute, convict and impose a fine on him.
“Section 33 (4) of the constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal offence shall be tried before a competent court or tribunal. Only a competent court of law is empowered to try, convict and impose a fine on a criminal suspect after a trial has been conducted before a competent court,” he disclosed.