April 18, 2013

Nigeria Bans "Oil" Documentary; Alternative?

Fueling povertyThe Committee for Protecting Journalists (CPJ), an international organisation committed to protecting the freedom of journalists worldwide, recently condemnedthe decision made by the Nigerian Government to ban the airing and distribution of a 30-minute documentary film on Nigeria's oil wealth, corruption and the state's management of funds. The documentary is titled, Fuelling Poverty. It was directed by award-winning Ishaya Bako (see interview with him on Diary of a Media Junkie).

According to CPJ, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), an agency run by the federal government, described the film as
highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security
This ban implies that no Nigerian cinemas or TV station is permitted to air the film. However, the responses from Twitter (see below) aptly answer my question (in the title) as to what the alternative is:

that's why the producer can release in on YouTube if the govt vex make dem ban goggle so what?
Let's see them 'ban' the internet, youtube, etc, then i'll know they're serious

Democracy thrives among an informed populace. The public sphere, the gathering together of people to discuss issues that concern them in order to arrive at a rational conclusion, is made vibrant where there is sufficient (accurate) information upon which agendas can be formed. If any aspect of Bako's documentary had been untrue, that is, slanderous in anyway, he may have been held liable - but this is not the case.

However, the DIGITAL public sphere, where people form discussions on online forums, blogs etc. has somewhat sidestepped the challenge banning the documentary would have posed to Nigeria's democracy. An 'uninformed' citizenry is a problem for any democracy. Hence, since it is not banned on YouTube (the alternative medium), people may still have access to this information, and form discussions around it. The online sphere generates enough buzz to get the conversation going, but the digital divide is still a huge issue.
I am simply using this to illustrate how digital media is revitalising the public sphere - this is a part of my research on Nigeria's democratic culture and what roles new media technologies affords citizens and public officials play, to foster democracy in the country.

Note: "Fuelling Poverty"currently has over 40,000 views on YouTube.
What do you think of the Federal Government's claim that the documentary is Provocative, likely to Incite, and UNDERMINE national security? Please share your comments.

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