Unchained Vibes Africa, a cultural organization and social enterprise committed to developing arts and culture projects geared towards social causes has called for participatory reforms in a bid to protect the creative industry.
The organization in a communiqué issued at the end of the Democracy Vibes Summit on the theme “Protecting Creativity Through Participatory Reforms” decried various concerns that have plagued the creative sector in the country.
The organisation lamented that the Artistic freedom of politically conscious artists who criticize policies and actions of the government has been (and continue to be) heavily restricted by state and non-state actors in Nigeria while expressing worries that Music, film, and video content are being restricted with overly broad rules that threaten artistic freedom with justifications relating to claims of preventing a religious and ethnic crisis, guaranteeing national security, prohibiting hate speech and incitement, and enforcing public morality.
“In recent years, many artists, especially those in the north, have been arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned over political and religious views in their artistic expressions or for defying the requirement by censors’ board to submit their content for approval before releasing the same.
With recent allegation that Nollywood (Nigerian film industry) is an influencing factor in the rise in ritual killings and kidnapping in Nigeria, state actors are driving new narratives that are unfounded and using it to justify the plan for tougher censorship policies that will further worsen the already restricted artistic freedom in Nigeria
Stakeholders are not paying adequate attention to the issue of payola, an illegal practice in the music industry in which commercial radio stations are bribed to play certain songs. The illegal practice restricts airplay for conscious music whose creators refuse to bribe. This silences the voices of conscious artists from being heard and denies them of their artistic freedom” the communique listed.
Other concerns highlighted in the communique include that; there are genuine concerns about the insensitivity of some artists to cultural and religious issues that may trigger violence; Exposure of children and teenagers to excessive nudity, drug, cultism, and gangsterism through music videos, are a major concern among all stakeholders
“There are concerns about the continued sexual objectification of women in music videos and treating female artists solely as an object of sexual desire without regard to their talent, creative personality, dignity, and abilities as professionals
The menace of demanding for sex from upcoming female singers and actors by music and movie producers, record label executives, TV personalities, and other influential practitioners in the creative sector remains a major restriction to women’s artistic freedom” the communique added.
Consequently, the summit thus resolved and recommended that; Guilds and associations in the creative sector should urgently be re-organized with proper structures and professional ethics that are backed by law to function like other professional bodies in Nigeria with the mandate to regulate their respective creative industries
They also canvassed that a group should be set up to lobby lawmakers at the national assembly for the repeal of laws inherited from colonial and military regimes that restrict artistic freedom. Provisions that threaten artistic freedom in the ongoing amendment of the National Film and Videos Censors Board Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act should be reviewed and expunged from the two bills.
“Defamation should be decriminalized and made a civil offence in Nigeria. While defamation laws are important in protecting people from false statements that damage their reputation, such laws have been regularly misused in the country by political office holders and powerful people in society. The criminalization of defamation poses risks to freedom of expression with a chilling effect on artistic freedom. If anyone is offended by a work of art, he or she should go to court to seek redress.
Censors’ boards’ statutory functions should be limited to the classification of works to protect children. Presently, most parents don’t know how to perform parental guidance functions. Censors’ boards should be renamed as classification boards and their priorities should be refocused from censoring artists’ activism to include investing in sensitization of the public on parental guidance to protect children from consuming content that is not suitable for them
They also canvassed that; “Artists and practitioners in the creative sector are encouraged to work more closely with CSOs as strategic partners for the collective benefit of the civic space rather than working in silos.
The practice of payola should be discouraged. NBC regulation should prioritize sanctions against the illegal practice.
Artists and practitioners in the creative sector are encouraged to do more in projecting the image of Nigeria. While it is their fundamental right to address social and political realities in the country, reflecting only the bad things is harmful to the image of the country and consequently, impacts all stakeholders negatively” the summit suggested.
The event was attended by a total of 302 delegates from across Nigeria, representing various fields of the creative sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and relevant key government agencies. There were 247 delegates physically in attendance and 55 others who participated via the Zoom webinar.
The government delegation was led by the Executive Director/CEO of the National Film and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB) Alhaji Adedayo Thomas; the Secretary to the Commission, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Dr. Igomu Onoja, and the Chief Public Affairs Officer, National Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Ivy Acka.
The artistic community delegation had in attendance veteran actors, musicians, and theatre practitioners, including the matriarchal Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Norbert Young, Ara, DJ Bola Browne, and Eedris Abdulkareem. Leaders of the creative industries in attendance included the National President, Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Victor Okhai; National President, Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) Dr. Ahmed Sarari; Executive Director, Abuja International Film Festival, Fidelis Duker; Executive Program Director, Culture Advocates Caucus, Jahman Anikulapo; National President, Association of Movie Practitioners (AMPRAC) Ifeanyi Azodo; National Secretary, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) Makinde Adeniran; Chairperson of the Nigerian Rastafari Community and spokesperson for the Rastafari African Continental Council, Myke Pam and the president of Creative Arts Students Association (CASA), University Of Lagos, Michael Akinleye.