Thursday, August 4, 2022

Nigeria fines MultiChoice, StarTimes and TStv over R200 000 for airing BBC Africa Eye investigative documentary on Nigerian gangs.

by Thinus Ferreira

Nigeria has fined MultiChoice's DStv, China's StarTimes and TelCom's TSTV over R200 000 each for broadcasting the insightful "Bandit warlords of Zamfara" documentary as part of the BBC's BBC Africa Eye investigative news programme.

In a statement from Nigeria's National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), it announced that it has "imposed a N5 million (R201 467) sanction, each" on MultiChoice Nigeria, StarTimes Nigeria and TelCom Satellite Ltd., claiming that the BBC Africa Eye episode "glorified the activities of bandits and undermines national security in Nigeria".

Another Nigerian TV channel, Trust TV, was also fined the same amount for its own news documentary about the same topic entitled "Nigeria's banditry - The Inside Story".

BBC Africa Eye as an investigative TV news programme is broadcast on the BBC's BBC World News channel carried on various satellite pay-TV services throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and is shown on various terrestrial TV channels across African nations as part of syndicated BBC News content deals.  

It's not yet clear whether MultiChoice Nigeria, StarTimes Nigeria, TelCom or Trust TV will appeal the fines for broadcasting the deeply sourced and fact-filled documentaries bringing viewers first-hand accounts and footage of the criminal gangs in northeast Nigeria who are raiding villages, attacking drivers, abducting schoolchildren and killing people.

The hourlong BBC Africa Eye documentary with reporter Yusuf Anka and produced and directed by Kai Lawrence and Daniel Adamson, with Tom Watson as BBC Africa Eye editor and Marc Perkins as head of investigations, has already been watched over a million times on YouTube.

In "Bandit warlords of Zamfara", as told through the eyes of a Nigerian law student living in Zamfara and who has first-hand experience of the crime and violence perpetrated by the gangs, the BBC documentary shows the bodies of those killed - including children - and includes interviews with gang leaders as well as victims.

The NBC, in its statement about the imposed fines for credible news reporting content, claims that "While appreciating the need of educating, informing and enlightening the public on issues bordering on developments and happenings within and outside of the country, the commission wishes to seize this opportunity to advise broadcasters to be circumspect and deliberate in the choice and carriage of content deleterious to Nigeria's national security".

According to the NBC, the BBC Africa Eye documentary contravened regulations that states "no broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime" and that broadcasters must "ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a manner depicting that law and order are socially superior to, or more desirable than crime or anarchy".

The pay-TV operators have to pay the fines before 30 August with the NBC warning them "to desist from falling into antics of using their platforms to promote and glamourise subversive elements and their activities".