It is a case of déjà vu in Africa. Typically of what any media regulator body remote-controlled by the government would do, especially when the story put the state’s incompetency and lack of political will under the spotlight. And they always base their decisions on the same laws and same reasons: incitement to violence and public disorder.
Many observers believe now that Nigeria’s radio station Wazobia FM ceases to broadcast because of its critical but justified coverage that questioned the local government’s motives in an anti-polio vaccination programme, the enemies of the free press lie in peace, happy to have taken revenge.
“Nigerian authorities closed Wazobia FM because they did not like its critical coverage, and then they cloaked their decision in highly charged but unsupported allegations of incitement,” Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said in a statement.
“We call on the National Broadcasting Commission to reverse this censorship order immediately.”
The federal government-run National Broadcasting Commission issued a statement on 22 February, saying it had revoked the licence of the private station Wazobia FM in the northern city of Kano, according to news reports.
Authorities accused the station of violating a part of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code that prohibits the use of language ‘likely to encourage or incite crime, or lead to disorder’, CPJ quoted the Nigerian press freedom group Media Rights Agenda as saying.
The commission did not include specific examples of the show inciting crime or disorder. Awwalu Salihu, spokesman for the commission, told CPJ that the body declined to give any specific examples.
Kano-based Wazobia FM has been under the spotlight lately. In mid-February, police arrested three journalists of the radio station after at least female health workers were shot and killed by gunmen while preparing to give oral drop vaccines to little children.
Police at the time claimed on-air comments made earlier by journalists on Wazobia FM caused the killings and sparked tensions in the Muslim conflict-hit city.
Many people in Nigeria have the belief that vaccines causes infertility to girls.
Nigeria has one of the worst records of press freedom in Africa. The country was ranked 115th by the Reporters Sans Frontières 2013 World Press Freedom Index.
Nigeria’s infamous media regulator body, established by the military junta of General Ibrahim Babaginda, possesses sweeping control over mandatory licensing and regulation.
The commission is not required to hold a public hearing prior to revoking the license of a media outlet, CPJ said in a statement issued from New York.
A 2001 study conducted by Article 19 found that the commission’s regulatory powers were ‘broad and vague’, its licensing process ‘arbitrary and susceptible to discriminatory application’, and its restrictions on content ‘excessive and contrary to international standards’.
*Photo: Radio personality Matse Uwatse who left Wazobia FM under mysterious circumstances in 2011