The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, August 7, said it has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari for imposing fines on media houses for allegedly glorifying terrorism.
SERAP also wants the court to declare arbitrary and illegal the N5 million imposed on Trust TV; Multichoice Nigeria Limited, NTA-Startimes Limited and TelcCom Satellite Limited; over their documentaries on terrorism in the country.
The suit was co-filed by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).
It has the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) joined as defendants.
NBC had imposed the fines on the media houses on the grounds that their documentaries glorified the activities of bandits; while undermining national security, an act that contravenes the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
But in suit number FHC/L/CS/1486/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos; SERAP and CJID are seeking an order setting aside the arbitrary and illegal fines of N5 million; as well as any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC on the media houses; adding that they were only carrying out their constitutional duties.
“The NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed have not shown that the documentaries by the media houses would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public interest in the information provided by the documentaries,” a statement issued by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, partly read.
It added that the documentaries by the concerned media houses pose no risk to any definite interest; particularly in national security or public order.
“Imposing any fine whatsoever without due process of law is arbitrary…
”It contravenes the principles of Nemo judex in causa sua which literally means one cannot be a judge in his own cause and audi alteram partem which means no one should be condemned unheard.
“Article 19 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes the right to freedom of opinion without interference. Article 19(2) establishes Nigeria’s obligations to respect ‘the right to freedom of expression,’ which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information, regardless of frontiers.”