Federal government has raised the alarm that “a section of the broadcast media has been lending its platform to agents of divisiveness, hatred, disunity, and misinformation.”
The minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this in his keynote address at the opening of the 75th general assembly of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) in Kano yesterday, said some broadcast stations revel in lending their platforms to those whose stock-in-trade is to spew hate as well as angry and divisive rhetoric and misinformation.
He, however, implored broadcast organisations to continue to leverage their power and reach to foster national unity and development.
Mohammed decried that at a time that our nation is facing a big challenge of insecurity and threats to national unity, divisive and hate messages, as well as misinformation being peddled by certain broadcast media, constitute a great risk, some media were lending their platform to misinformation.
The minister said broadcasting remains a powerful tool and has a great role to play in fostering national unity and development. He said if used wrongly, it can also be a tool for disunity, divisiveness, and disharmony, all of which are inimical to development.
“Apart from during the civil war, I cannot think of any other time in our nation’s history that the role of the media in general, and the broadcast media in particular, has been more important in dousing tension and forging national cohesion.
“Let us, therefore, resolve to use our platforms to serve both public and national interest, rather than the interest of a few naysayers and agents of destabilization. Let us harness the power of broadcasting to inform, educate and entertain our people in a positive way. Let us deny them the use of our various platforms. Let us remember that it is because we have a country where we can have broadcast stations,” he said.
He said anyone who doubts the double-edged power of the broadcast media to foster national unity or trigger disharmony should read about the role of a broadcast station, RTLM, in the 100 days of the genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead in Rwanda in 1994.
“The station incited hatred and violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the genocide,” he said.
Recalling the kidnapping incident at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna on Aug. 24, 2021, he said someone went on national television to say that the army officer that was abducted from had been killed, only for the officer to be rescued alive shortly after.
“Some broadcast stations lent their platforms to a very senior public official whose stock-in-trade is divisive rhetoric and unjustified castigation of Mr. President.
“Of course, we cannot forget how a television station reported erroneously that the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was set ablaze by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protest, or how another television station reported, also erroneously, that a workman atop a bank building in Lagos was a sniper. But for providence, these false reports could have triggered an orgy of violence,” he added.