Broadcasting Code

As NBC takes on the issue of content development and peaceful coexistence boldly henceforth, it is our candid wish that all stakeholders subscribe to the project and contribute their respective quota to make Nigeria a safer entity for generations.

There has been a growing recognition of the relevance of communication in conflict management and peace-building initiatives across the world. Dramatic improvements and sophistication in information and communication technologies have engendered consciousness about the need to deploy communication for facilitating social cohesion, community resilience and peacebuilding initiatives.

On the other hand, the negative roles that some sections of the media and communications practice played in exacerbating violent conflicts and group mobilisation were unmistakable. There have been many instances in which journalists, government officials, security managers and international development agencies fueled or exacerbated violence through inflammatory communication. The consequences and damages of news reports are hardly mitigated by the fact that the actors intended no harm.

To avert a ceaseless deepening of this rather unpleasant situation, the Department for International Development (DFID) funded an ingenious intervention, the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) focused on fostering the enhancement of the capability of actors and institutions dedicated to the promotion of peace and security in Nigeria. Since its inception in 2012, NSRP has, following a thorough needs assessment, prioritised the focus on building the capacity of journalists. It has gone further to advance technical and facility support to media establishments, tertiary institutions, as well as security agencies, and relevant social media enthusiasts, on conflict sensitive communication. The programme, deliberately emphasised reporting to mitigate the risks of violence triggered by the transmission and retransmission of dangerous speeches and insensitive messages, which impact on human security and social cohesion.

Through its various interventions, NSRP has trained and facilitated the mentoring of journalists to increase the quality and conflict sensitivity of media reporting. This is to ensure that their professional performances match the demands and challenges of working in conflict zones. NSRP specifically supported the highlighting of potential conflict situations by promoting dialogue in communities where they exist. Equally important was the need to provide the window of opportunities for women.

With the growing trend in conflict situations in Nigeria, NSRP realises that there is a strong need to prescribe the approach of conflict sensitive communication and gender sensitivity in the forthcoming Broadcasting Code which the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is currently perfecting, having solicited and taken submissions from stakeholders, including those who converged on Kano at the Stakeholders’ Retreat in May 2017. This, hopefully, would substantially help to stem the rampaging tides of conflict and hate speeches and other indecent expressions in the Nigerian broadcast media. There is also the need to be more gender sensitive in the Code because what we currently have mainly echoes the gap.
To be exact, the NBC Code has done well to only reflect part of the observations in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) document, in which there is a focus on 12 critical areas, one of them being the unfair media’s disposition to women. But what should the media, especially the broadcast media, do to promote the cause of women? What will advancing of the cause of women do to the nation’s general well being? These and others should be the germane questions to be further addressed by the NBC as the nation’s compass for broadcasting activities.

It is pertinent to recall that NSRP reckons strongly with the capacity of the media, especially the broadcast media, to impact on the Nigerian society. Indeed, this is to the extent that it has realised that the NBC Code needs to avail the nation’s broadcasting sector of a foundational premise. This is to enable broadcasters cultivate and sustain peaceful coexistence as desired by NBC and as particularly envisioned by the July 18, 2017 NBC Summit on “Content Development and Peaceful Co-existence (sic)”. NSRP believes that the inclusion of conflict and gender sensitivity in the new Code will help make the media a positive force against violent intolerance, while promoting diversity. It is also clear that gender sensitive broadcasting will readily accommodate and tolerate diversity, which is indispensable to the sustenance of peaceful co-existence.

It is in this light that NSRP chose to emphatically focus on conflict-sensitive communication, more especially conflict sensitive reporting. This is in line with global best practices as duly endorsed by UNESCO and echoed the world over. Conflict-sensitive reporting is the trendy journalistic practice that mandates the media to reckon with the fact that they must consciously report and analyse conflicts with a view to helping to mitigate them. Central to doing this by the broadcast media is the need to consciously avoid and discourage the use of dangerous speech. This brand of media practice equally preaches solution building and consensus building, in conjunction with what it labels “good journalism”, which enjoins the strict adherence to professional ethics.

Incidentally, in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the latitude for dangerous speech is a most extensive one according to a recent study in Ghana. The study clearly reckons that the use of ‘hate speech’ to collectively describe the phenomenon it refers to is rather eurocentric. Rather, it concludes that ‘hate speech’ constitutes only a strand of the rather roomy concept of indecent expressions comprising no fewer than 12 components or variants reflecting cultural diversity and their accompaniments, which are hardly visible in western cultures.

In the spirit of accommodating and tolerating diversity, NSRP has, in conjunction with relevant stakeholders, advocated and demonstrated multilateral collaboration between relevant stakeholders, including broadcasters, academics, culture enthusiasts, journalists, as collectives, and individuals, as well as other non state actors like charities and foundations.

As NBC takes on the issue of content development and peaceful coexistence boldly henceforth, it is our candid wish that all stakeholders subscribe to the project and contribute their respective quota to make Nigeria a safer entity for generations.

Lauratu Umar Abdulsalam is Media Manager for the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, NSRP, of the DFID.