The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has threatened to drag the federal government to court over moves to revoke the licenses of broadcast stations and shut them down over their coverage of elections and post-election matters.
SERAP, which made the threat in a letter dated March 11, 2023 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said if the threat is not immediately withdrawn it would limit freedom of expression and the ability of broadcast stations to cover important issues around the 2023 general elections.
The civil society organisation also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), to urgently withdraw the last warning and threat they issued to the media houses.
Last week, the NBC threatened to revoke the licenses of broadcast stations and shut them down “if they continue to allow unpatriotic individuals on their platforms to make utterances that are subversive, hateful, and inciting, and negative conversations particularly in the post-2023 presidential election.
But SERAP, in its letter addressed to the president, insisted that threatening to shut down and revoke the licences of broadcast stations simply for carrying out their ‘watchdog role’ is clearly incompatible with Nigeria’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.
It further maintained that political expression is a fundamental right and that the threat by the NBC creates a significant risk that legitimate expression may be prohibited.
The organisation also stated that such unlawful prohibition may prevent transparency and dissemination of information on legitimate issues of public interest around the 2023 general elections.
SERAP said, “We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The threat may produce a direct impact on the work of broadcast stations in ways that are inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.