Popular Rights group, Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and twenty four concerned Nigerians, have sued the Nigerian government, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) community Court of Justice in Abuja; over the NBC broadcasting code.
SERAP prayed ECOWAS court to declare “illegal,” and contrary to Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, the provisions of NBC act and Broadcasting code frequently applied by the federal government and NBC; to target, harras, intimidate and impose sanctions on independent television and radio stations in the country.
The suit ensued the censorship slammed at Channels TV, by the NBC, asking the tele-station to explain, why it interviewed the spokesman of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; not excluding the one-time 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 the ₦9 million fines imposed on Channels TV, AIT, and Arise TV, [₦3m) each, over the coverage of the #ENDSARS protests.
In the Suit number ECW/CJ/APP/19/21, filed last week, the plantif argued that:
“The rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom allow Nigerian to seek and attain truth, which is an unhealthy and 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 fooster and encourage.
According to the plaintiffs, “Attempts to justify restrictions of those fundamental rights and freedom on the overly vague grounds of incitement, morality and subversion of the constitution authority contradict the principle of the university of human rights. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human rights and cannot be denied without lawful justification.
The plaintiff also argued that, “the application of the Nigerian Broadcasting Act 1992, and broadcasting code to sanction independent television and radio station is arbitrary, and has created an environment in which independent media houses are censored or resort to self censorship.
The plaintiff state that, despite the freedom of information Act in Nigeria which guarantees the right to access public records, the federal government and its agents and several states of Nigeria have routinely refused to release information sought.
Summarily, the suit, debated that censorship restrict the flow of information to people, about issues on public issues, it however, demands that the federal government and NBC should be stopped from persistent use of broadcasting code, as it violates the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, and prohibition against self censorship.
The plantif therefore ask ECOWAS court of Justice for the following relief:
1. To declare an imposed sanctions and penalties on independent television and radio station that is inconsistent and incompatible with the right to expression to access to information.
2. An order setting aside the sum of five million naira, or any other form of penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the defendant and its agents on Channels TV and or on any such other television and radio stations.
3. An order directing the defendant and its agents to immediately repel and or attend the National Broadcasting Commission Act and the Nigerian Broadcasting Code and bring them into conformity with Nigeria’s International human rights and obligations.
4. An order of perpetual injunction in restraining the defendenr and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions fines or doing anything whatsoever to harras Channels TV and any other television and radio stations in violation of the African charter on human and people’s rights and the international covenant on civil and political rights.
Such further order of orders, the Honorable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit. No date has been fixed for initial hearing.
Ijeoma Njoku reporting, Obinwannem News