March 27, 2006
Posted: April 25, 2006
Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) suspended five political programs and all live phone-in shows on Freedom Radio, an independent station based in the northern city of Kano. In addition, the Commission ordered the station to stop all broadcasts between 5 and 10 pm for two weeks, starting March 27, and to pay fines totaling 200,000 naira (US$1,575).
A letter from the Commission cited recurring complaints that guests and callers had made “unguarded comments that violate provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code” on the air. It did not provide specific examples of violations.
Freedom Radio rejected the NBC’s accusations in a statement, adding that the decision to suspend the station “can easily be viewed as an attempt to deprive a section of this country of an independent, free and fair source of information.” In an editorial criticizing the suspension, the Abuja-based independent Daily Trust noted, “we have no evidence suggesting that Freedom Radio management have failed in their responsibilities.” Local journalists said Freedom Radio’s programs were generally professional, and very popular.
The suspension order provoked protests from local journalists and press freedom organizations, including the Lagos-based group Media Rights Agenda. Several local journalists said that the government had targeted Freedom Radio over a song aired by the station protesting against a third term for President Olusegun Obasanjo. The issue of a third term, which would require a constitutional amendment, has become a heated political debate in Nigeria. The president told the Washington Post in April that he would decide whether to run again after the national assembly voted on a proposed constitutional amendment.
Freedom Radio resumed all regular programming on April 8, after an NBC official told staff that the suspension was lifted.