The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has warned all broadcast stations against airing programmes about the Covid-19 pandemic that have no verifiable claims.
The NBC has observed a spike in the spread of fake news and misinformation, which is harming the fight against the virus, and has said it would not hesitate to impose severe sanctions on any channels that carries unverifiable claims.
The NBC highlighted sections of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which states that the broadcaster must ensure every programme is accurate and credible; descriptions, claims, testimonials or illustrations in an advertisement relating to verifiable facts should be easily be substantiated; and that the broadcaster must ensure an advertisement is not broadcast if it contains an offer to diagnose or treat conditions by myth or superstitious beliefs and practice.
According to the NBC: “The coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic and no station shall allow its platform to be used to undermine the seriousness of the virus, and all broadcast stations are responsible for all contents that they transmit.”
Ekanem Antia, assistant director of public affairs, said: “In compliance with the directives of the commission for pay TV to decrypt the signals of local channels on their platforms for one month, in the first instance, to enable viewers get adequate information and directives during the Covid-19 pandemic, free TV has announced unrestricted access for customers during the lockdown.”
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister for information and culture, said: “If you go by WhatsApp, there are so many myths and cures for Covid-19 today. Some people will tell you it cannot affect Africans or the disease is not even existing at all, while some will say all you need to do is to take garlic or ginger.
“As we speak today, there is no vaccine or medicine for Covid-19. The only weapon to combat the virus is what we call non-pharmaceutical intervention, which largely means sensitisation, advocacy, keeping very good hygiene, social distancing, not shaking hands and not gathering.
“These are the only effective ways to contain the pandemic and that is why governments are declaring total lockdowns. Once it starts spreading, no healthcare in the world can survive it.”