Editors, SERAP sue Buhari over broadcast stations’ shutdown

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project have instituted a suit against the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Broadcasting Commission over the arbitrary use of the NBC Act and broadcasting code to threaten, revoke, and shut down 53 broadcast stations in the country.

IMS had reported that last week, the NBC revoked the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and threatened to shut down their operations within 24 hours over alleged N2.6bn debts and for their failure to renew their licences.

In a statement signed by the General Secretary of NGE, Iyobosa Uwugiaren; and the Deputy Director, SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Tuesday, the groups asked the court for a declaration that Section 10(a) of the third schedule to the National Broadcasting Act used by the NBC to threaten to revoke the licences of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the broadcast stations was unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violated the freedom of expression.

Joined in the suit as defendants is the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1582/2022 filed on Tuesday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, NGE and SERAP asked the court to determine whether Section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the National Broadcasting Act used by NBC to threaten and revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shut them down is not inconsistent and incompatible with the freedom of expression and access to information as contained in the 1999 constitution as amended.

The statement read, “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.

“The use of NBC Act and the NBC Code, in this case, would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.

 “The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.”

“Indeed, the media has the task of distributing a variety of information and opinion on matters of general interest. The public has a right to receive and assess this information and opinion independently. Therefore, the existence of a free, independent, vigorous, pluralistic, and diverse media is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society.

“Revoking the licences of 53 broadcast stations and shutting down their operations because they have not renewed their licences would both seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.

“Freedom of expression includes the public’s right to receive, and the right of those who express themselves through a medium of communication, to impart the greatest possible diversity of information and ideas.”