The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 24 concerned Nigerians have slammed a lawsuit against the Federal Government and the National Broadcasting Commission at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja.
Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, the spokespersons for SERAP made this public via a statement on Sunday, May 2.
SERAP said the suit is over “the arbitrary use of the NBC Act and broadcasting code to target, harass, sanction, and fine independent television and radio stations in Nigeria, and to restrict Nigerians’ freedom of expression and access to information.”
The rights group is asking the ECOWAS Court to declare “illegal and contrary to Nigeria’s international human rights obligations the provisions of the NBC Act and broadcasting code frequently apply by the Federal Government and NBC to target, harass, intimidate, and impose sanctions on independent television and radio stations in the country.”
The suit is coming in the wake of the “‘bridge [breach] letter’ by the NBC; asking Channels TV to explain why it interviewed the spokesman of a proscribed organisation; the ban on Jay FM 101.9 Jos for playing songs such as Falz’s ‘This is Nigeria’, Wande Coal’s ‘Iskaba’ and Olamide’s ‘See Mary, See Jesus’; and also the N9m fines imposed on Channels TV, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests.”
In the suit, the Plaintiffs are arguing that “the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom allow Nigerians to seek and attain truth, which is an inherently good activity. These rights also allow Nigerians to participate in representative governance, social and political decision-making, which the Federal Government and NBC are obligated to foster and encourage.”
The Plaintiffs are also arguing that “the application of the Nigerian Broadcasting Act 1992; and broadcasting code to sanction independent television and radio stations is arbitrary; and has also created an environment in which independent media houses are censored, or resort to self-censorship.”
“Censorship restricts the flow of information from the Federal Government and its agents about issues of public interest; preventing people from accessing critical information; expressing themselves; as well as denying them opportunities to assert other fundamental human rights.”
“It also violates the rights of people to openly discuss issues relating to transparency and accountability in government; and prevents them from accessing information on a wide range of related concerns.”
“The Federal Government and NBC should be stopped from using the broadcasting code; or any other regulations; and/or law to erode the sacred rights to freedom of expression; information; as well as media freedom; which is the bedrock of the rule of law and sustainable democracy.”
SERAP said no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.