The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, over the order stopping journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.
Joined in the suit as Defendant, is the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
The suit followed the directive by the NBC, asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/725/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP and PTCIJ are seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed or any other persons from imposing fines or other sanctions on broadcast stations for carrying out their constitutional duties of reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims during daily newspaper reviews.”
They are also seeking “an order to compel and direct the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to withdraw the directive asking journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting details on terrorist attacks and victims, as the directive is unlawful and inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international human rights obligations.
“An order setting aside the directive on reporting of terrorist attacks and victims, for being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
According to SERAP, “unless the reliefs sought are urgently granted by this Honourable Court, the directive by the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed would be used to impermissibly restrict Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies.”
SERAP and PTCIJ are arguing that the failure by the government to withdraw the directive, violates sections 5[a] and [b], 147 and 148 of the Nigerian Constitution, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1], and Oath of office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP and PTCIJ by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed lack the power and authority to restrict the ability of journalists and broadcast stations to carry out their constitutional duties and to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for reporting on details of terrorist attacks and victims in the country.”
“SERAP and PTCIJ together with several millions of Nigerians easily access information, news and form opinions on government policies through the daily newspaper reviews by journalists and broadcast stations in Nigeria.”
SERAP believes that while the NBC has the powers to make rules to enable it perform its statutory functions under section 2 [a] to [u] of NBC Act, such statutory powers ought to be exercised in line with the Nigerian Constitution, and the country’s international human rights obligations.