LAGOS: Nigeria's state-run broadcast watchdog on Friday ordered TV and radio to stop airing details of terrorist attacks in a measure media groups feared would be used to muzzle the press.
The decision came a few weeks after the government banned the use of Twitter following the social media platform's removal of an alleged offensive message by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Security forces are battling a surge in mass kidnappings by criminal gangs in central and northwestern states and separatist tension in parts of the country.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in a statement ordered television and radio stations operating in the country to desist from revealing "details" of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in their reports.
"Headlines of most newspapers on a daily basis are replete with security topics," the NBC said in a statement.
"While bringing information on security to the doorsteps of Nigerians is a necessity, there is a need for caution as too many details may have an adverse implication on the efforts of our security officials who are duty-bound to deal with the insurgency," it said.
The commission said such reports were capable of "glamourising the nefarious activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits etc".
Media bodies condemned the decision, saying it was aimed at gagging the press and freedom of expression.
"The directive from the NBC is against the freedom of expression and the rules guiding the journalism profession," chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Lagos, Adeleye Ajayi, told AFP.
He said rather than muzzle the media, the government should organise seminars and workshops to educate journalists on reporting of security matters.
"We are cognisant of being patriotic in our reportage and therefore should not be misinterpreted as glamourising the dastard activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and the rest of them," he added.