DStv slapped with R200,000 fine for airing bandit documentary

Nigeria’s broadcasting regulator has fined DStv and several other broadcasters for airing a BBC documentary about the ultra-violent bandit groups operating in the country’s northwestern parts.

In a statement on Wednesday, the country’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) announced a 5 million naira (R201,135) sanction on DStv, TSTV, and Startimes for broadcasting the “Bandit Warlords of Zamfara” during an episode of the BBC Africa Eye programme.

The NBC has alleged that the 50-minute piece “glorified the activities of bandits” and undermined Nigeria’s national security.

The regulator also fined Trust TV for broadcasting a documentary titled “Nigeria’s Banditry — The Inside Story”.

The NBC said the airing of the documentaries contravened Nigeria’s Broadcasting Code, which states the following:

  • No broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder or hate, be repugnant to public feelings or contain offensive reference to any person or organisation, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity.
  • The broadcaster shall not transmit a programme that incites or is likely to incite violence among the populace, causing mass panic, political and social upheaval, security breach and general social disorder.
  • The broadcaster shall 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 regulator said although it appreciated the need for “educating, informing, and enlightening the public on issues bordering on developments and happenings within and outside the country”, it advised broadcasters to be “circumspect and deliberate in the choice and carriage of contents deleterious to Nigeria’s national security”.

The documentary was also published on YouTube on 25 July 2022 and had been viewed almost 1.2 million times at the time of publication.

It is narrated by a law student raised in the impacted area who has first-hand experience of the violence perpetrated by the gangs and vigilante groups formed in response to their activities.

The documentary includes interviews with the victims of the violence and the leaders of the bandits.

It includes disturbing footage of the bodies of the gangs’ victims, including young children.

“The ensuing nightmare has killed thousands, closed hundreds of schools, and is spreading into neighbouring states. Massacres and mass abductions are frequent,” he explains.

A screenshot from an interview with one of the bandit gang members

A report from Nigerian news publication The Nation Online on the latest development states that the fine was because of the government’s “disdain for negative press and sharp revelations”.

“This is particularly true of the government’s reactions to international media coverage, such as the CNN story on the Lekki gate shootings during the #ENDSARS protest, and negative international indices, such as those published annually by the Corruption Perception Index and the Fragile States Index.”

“The banning and unbanning of Twitter for spreading fake news is yet another example,” the reporter added.

MyBroadband asked DStv parent company MultiChoice for comment on the development but did not immediately receive feedback to our queries.

This is not the first time MultiChoice has faced legal trouble in the country.

In 2021, a Nigerian tribunal ordered the company to pay 50% of a disputed 1.8 trillion naira (R72.5 billion) tax bill after the country’s revenue services instructed banks to freeze the accounts of MultiChoice Africa and its Nigerian subsidiary.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (Firs) alleged that MultiChoice had breached agreements and denied access to its records for auditing.

MultiChoice and Firs later reached an agreement by which it would permit the auditing of its accounts to determine its tax liability.

In 2018, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered that DStv freeze its package prices as part of an investigation into consumer complaints about its “arbitrary” price hikes.

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DStv slapped with R200,000 fine for airing bandit documentary