The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has requested that all social media platforms and online broadcasting service providers in Nigeria register for a broadcast license.
The decision was issued by NBC Director-General Armstrong Idachaba in a newspaper advertisement published on Thursday.
This comes on the heels of the federal government’s statement that Twitter and other social media platforms must register as a Nigerian firm in order to “conduct business in Nigeria.”
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It reflects worries expressed by charges that the Buhari administration is restricting free expression and internet freedom – charges that the government disputes.
According to Idachaba’s advertisement, the NBC establishment code authorizes the commission to request that the enterprises be licensed.
“(1) The Commission shall have [the] responsibility of: Receiving, processing, and considering applications for the establishment, ownership, or operation of radio and television stations, including I cable television services, direct satellite broadcast, and any other medium of broadcasting,” states Section 2(b) of the NBC Act of 2004.
The ad reads, “The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) therefore directs every Online Broadcast Service provider and Social Media Platform operating within the Nigerian State to apply for and get a broadcast licence for their services.”
“It should be noted that any Online Broadcast Service Provider that does not secure a license will be regarded an illegal entity.”
It is unclear if the rule applies only to broadcasting organizations or not.
When approached by TheCable on Thursday, NBC spokesman Franca Aiyetan declined to comment.
Although no decision has been made, the government has proceeded to license social media businesses after Twitter removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, citing a violation of its policy.
In the post, the president promised to handle “misbehaving” Nigerians in “the language they understand.”
The federal government stopped Twitter in Nigeria two days after the incident and urged NBC to “immediately begin the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
The NBC also ordered broadcast stations to discontinue their use of Twitter, stating that it would be “unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronize” the microblogging site.
Concerns regarding press freedom were raised after the commission revised its rule, increasing the penalties for “hate speech” from N500,000 to N5 million, among other things.
A number of media outlets have been sanctioned in accordance with the rule, which many Nigerians and groups claim is aimed at promoting press freedom.