Coming on the heels of its recent suspension of Twitter operations in the country after it deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet on Nigerian Civil War, the federal government has taken its struggle to control internet content to the National Assembly.
Yesterday, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged the lawmakers to grant the government powers to regulate internet content.
The federal government’s move has received strong criticism from stakeholders in the media industry who said the government was trying to constrict broadcast business as well as the media space.
The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), International Press Centre (IPC) and other stakeholders said certain provision of the bill would grant too much powers to the NBC which would hurt the operations of the industry.
The minister insisted that it was the responsibility of the government to monitor broadcast content even on the internet.
This is just as stakeholders in the media industry kicked against moves aimed at empowering the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to regulate tariffs charged by Pay TV operators.
The stakeholders also urged the National Assembly to whittle powers of the NBC to unilaterally sanction broadcast stations, just as they demanded that the proviso of 30 days’ notice before the NBC can be sued to court (on actions it had taken) should be expunged from the proposed amendment.
The minister, who stated the government’s position at a public hearing on a bill to amend the National Broadcasting Act organised by the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, urged the lawmakers to amend the existing NBC law to include that it had power to regulate internet broadcast and all online media broadcast in the country.
While speaking on the categories of licences to be granted by the NBC, which include cable television services, direct satellite broadcast, direct to home, IPTV Radio, EPG and digital terrestrial television, radio and television stations owned, established or operated by the federal, state and local governments; broadcast signal distribution; online broadcast, community broadcasting and public service broadcasting, the minister noted that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in the list.
“I want to add here specifically that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this. This is because we have the responsibility to monitor content, including Twitter,” the minister said.