One in ten radio stations are now at risk of losing their license after the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria’s broadcasting regulator, followed through on its threat to suspend 53 radio stations for non-payment of their license fees – a move that comes amid increasing violence against journalists and media outlets.
“NBC’s decision to suspend the licenses of more than 50 radio stations deprives millions of people of their right to news and information, even if the leaders of these radio stations are ready to dialogue to find solutions to long term that benefits everyonesays Sadibou Marong, director of RSF’s West Africa office. “Many media operate in precarious conditions and sometimes threaten their safety. The authorities have a duty to remedy these obstacles to the freedom of the press.”
A statement released by NBC on August 19 lists 53 public and private radio stations that have not paid their license fees and gives them until August 20 to pay – a deadline that was later extended to August 24. The amount each station is supposed to pay varies from 1 to 20 million naira (2,500 to 47,000 euros), depending on whether it is a public, private or community radio. The overall sum requested from the 53 radio stations is 2.6 billion naira (6 million euros).
RSF spoke to the owners and managers of the affected radio stations, some of whom called on the authorities to reduce license fees and said it was unfair to demand payment five years in advance. Others, like Raypower Networks, the owner Ray Power FMhave chosen to enter into negotiations with the BNC.
The economic environment for journalists in Nigeria is very precarious and the media are often threatened with suspension. In addition to these economic difficulties, journalists are also often victims of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and even physical violence.
15 journalists arrested since June
Since June, at least 15 journalists have been arrested and detained for up to two days on spurious grounds and, in most cases, arbitrarily. The last victim was CrossRiver Watch journalist Agba Jalingo, who was arrested at his home in Lagos on August 21 for a story about the University of Abuja Law School. The police also harassed his wife and children for several hours.
On July 22, police raided the Abuja headquarters of People’s Gazettea very popular online newspaper, in an attempt to arrest the editor Samuel Ogundipe and journalist Adefemola Akintade on a June 23 article about the anti-corruption agency ICPC. In their absence, the police briefly detained five other members of their staff – Ameedat Adeyemi, Grace Oke, Samy Ogbu, Justina Tayanme and deputy editor John Adenekan.
“We were arrested during our workAdenekan told RSF. “Stalking people to do their job is not acceptable. Journalism is not a crime. It is only hoped that the authorities will remain committed to freedom of the press without succumbing to pressure from illegal circles.”
Access to People’s Gazette the website was blocked last year after reporting that privileges had been granted to the son of a member of the president’s staff.
Some media, including Daily Trust newspaper and the British public broadcaster, the BBC, were also threatened with banning due to their coverage of armed groups in the northwest of the country. RSF recalls that covering all aspects of a conflict is part of the job of a freelance journalist.
Nigeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 ranking World Press Freedom Index.