Nigeria’s broadcast regulator has fined MultiChoice Group’s Nigerian unit and others ₦5-million (R200 000) each for airing a BBC report that it said “glorified the activities of bandits and undermines national security”.

The National Broadcasting Commission said in a statement on Wednesday that the outlets had until 30 August to pay. It also fined local channel Trust TV, part of the group that owns the prominent Daily Trust newspaper, for its own report on banditry.

“The commission wishes to seize this opportunity to advise broadcasters to be circumspect and deliberate in the choice and carriage of contents deleterious to Nigeria’s national security,” the NBC said in a statement.

The Daily Trust quoted its management as saying: “We wish to state unequivocally that as a television station, we believe we were acting in the public interest by shedding light on the thorny issue of banditry.”

“This story is overwhelmingly in the public interest and the BBC stands by its journalism,” the BBC said in an e-mailed statement. MultiChoice had no immediate comment.

Armed criminals, known locally as bandits, have kidnapped thousands of Nigerians over the past two years. Free speech and democracy activists in Africa’s most populous country have raised the alarm over what they say are erosions to freedom of expression in recent years, including last year’s ban on social media platform Twitter.

Nigeria has a presidential election in February in which deteriorating security nationwide could play a prominent role. — Reuters