A pro-democracy group in Kwara State, Kwara Must Change (KMC), has kicked against the move by the Kwara State House of Assembly to restrict media freedom in the state. The group made its position known in a statement issued on Monday.
According to KMC, the state legislature is deliberating on a motion to ban live political programmes on all broadcast stations in the state.
"We reject in entirety, the content of this anti-democratic plan and urge the Kwara State House of Assembly to abort it with immediate effect.Specifically, the Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA), after deliberations on a motion titled 'The Need For All Broadcast Stations In Kwara To Comply With NBC Codes and Regulations', directed the office of the state Commissioner for Justice to make a strong representation to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to ban live partisan political programmes on all broadcast stations in the state," said KMC.
It added that the House asked the Justice Commissioner to write to the NBC to compel political parties to limit their discussions on radio stations to their respective manifestos. Equally, the KMC stated that the House resolved that parties should no longer make to the activities of other political parties or government headed by other political parties.
In addition, said KMC, the House resolved that the licence of any broadcast station that violates the NBC codes and regulations be withdrawn.
"We at Kwara Must Change hold that the resolution of the House is a misplaced priority and an act of mischief that is capable of jeopardizing the current peace enjoyed in the state. Kwara Must Change consider the spending of taxpayers' money and the state’s scarce resources on such frivolous mission as insensitive to the plight of the people and we condemn this insensitivity in the strongest terms" said the group.
It argued that every Nigerian, irrespective of political affiliation, is entitled to a variety of freedoms and such should not be restricted.
"These rights are inalienable and are properly protected in Section 39 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To suggest that any Nigerian be banned from exercising his constitutional right on broadcast stations is nothing but an act of tyranny and high level impunity," argued KMC.
The group further stated that it is not the place of the Kwara State House of Assembly to tell the NBC to carry out its duty of enforcing codes and regulations.
"If NBC feels that any broadcast station in Kwara State has breached any code or regulation, it would take appropriate action to sanction the affected station.
We therefore find it strange that the Kwara State House of Assembly is attempting to usurp the powers of NBC by imposing on itself the duty of law enforcer in media practice or attempting to influence the NBC to take actions that are unknown to law," said KMC.
It further contended that across the country, civil and political programmes on radio stations are anchored by citizens irrespective of political affiliation, adding that membership of a political party does not strip a citizen or group of citizens of their basic rights. KMC said the NBC cannot prevent healthy public discussions aimed at educating the public simply because some politicians or people in government are notcomfortable with criticisms.
The group, therefore, demanded that the vexatious motion on be dropped in its entirety and the House should desist from further attempt to restrict media freedom in the state. It also demanded that the House should issue a public apology to all broadcast stations in the state for wrongly inferring that they violated NBC code. It equally asked House to publicly apologize to the people of Kwara State, whose right to be informed the House attempted to undermine. Lastly, the group called for an immediate halt in funding of House members' trips to Abuja, which it said is under the guise of discussing violation of NBC codes.