Wazobia FM journalist have been accused of inciting the killing of nine polio vaccinators in Kano State.
The Nigerian government has suspended the operating license of Wazobia FM, Kano, two weeks after gunmen killed nine polio vaccinators in the city, in an attack blamed on a program aired by the radio. The government says the attackers, suspected to be members of the extremist group, Boko Haram, were incited by the radio program which criticized polio vaccination as an attempt at reducing the Muslim population.
Two Wazobia radio journalists, who presented the programme, have been charged. The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, on Friday said it has suspended the Operating Licence of Globe Broadcasting and Communications Limited, owners of the radio. The suspension is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday by the commission’s Head of Public Affairs, Awwalu Salihu. Mr. Salihu explained in the statement that the suspension is in continuation of the steps taken by the commission following the broadcast of an episode of the programme – Sandar Girma.
It said the programme was found to have breached Section 3.9.1 of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code which prohibits the use of language encouraging crime or disorder. "Section 3.9.1, for instance, stipulates that: language or scene likely to encourage or incite crime, or lead to disorder, shall not be broadcast." Mr. Salihu said the commission is of the opinion that the station used its broadcast rights in a manner that was detrimental to national interest. The statement ordered the station to go off air with "immediate" effect until further notice.
"The commission has, therefore, decided to suspend the licence of the station in accordance with sections 10 (d) and 14 of the Third Schedule of the National Broadcasting Act, CAP N11, Laws of the Federation, 2004, until further notice" it said.
On a February 6 radio show, radio presenter, Yakubu Faggae, accused local officials in the state of using force to carry out immunization on children against polio. Mr. Faggae compared the style to the method adopted by Western governments. In court, the journalists were granted bail and were set free pending hearing of the case which was adjourned till March 13. They pleaded not guilty to the charges laid out against them including criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance, intentional insult, obstruction of a public servant in discharge of his public functions, defamation and uttering injurious falsehoods.
There have been criticisms about the treatment meted out to the Wazobia journalists. "We are deeply troubled by the very serious criminal charges lodged against Wazobia FM journalists over a radio program that raised critical questions about the Kano state government’s handling of a polio vaccination campaign," Committee to Protect Journalist, CPJ, an international advocacy group said. "Authorities have presented no evidence to substantiate these accusations. The charges against Wazobia FM journalists should be dropped," CPJ said.