The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari 48 hours to withdraw proposed sanction against media organizations, BBC and Daily Trust over their documentaries on terrorism in the country.
Last week BBC released a documentary showing bandits in the forest revealing that government benefits from terrorism and banditry.
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture last Thursday stated that the Federal Government would sanction the BBC and Daily Trust for airing documentaries that “glorify”, “promote”, and “fuel” terrorism and banditry in Nigeria.
SERAP has now urged President Buhari to urgently instruct Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, to withdraw the threat to sanction BBC and Daily Trust.
In a letter dated July 30, 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “The media has the duty to impart information and ideas on issues of public importance.
If carried out, the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would inhibit the media from reporting on issues of public interest.”
According to SERAP, “Media houses and journalists ought to be given the room to determine how best to present information of public interest, especially information about the growing violence and killings across the country.”
The organisation added that the government should focus on delivering its promises to ensure the security of Nigerians.
The letter, read in part: “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 in the public interest.
“A free, uncensored, and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other rights. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society.
“Sanctioning the BBC and Daily Trust would be entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The threat if carried out would impermissibly restrict the constitutional and international rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.
“Access to information is essential for the enjoyment of other human rights and freedoms and constitutes a fundamental pillar for building a democratic society and strengthening democracy.
“Allowing the media to freely carry out their duties is essential to building secure society and leaving no one behind. Conversely, imposing impermissible restrictions on media houses, journalists and other Nigerians undermines the security that builds a healthy and vibrant society.
“The grounds for sanctioning the BBC and Daily Trust as stated by Mr. Mohammed fail to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of the grounds, with the aim of ensuring that the excuse of ‘glorifying, promoting, and fueling terrorism and banditry’ are not used as a pretext to unduly intrude upon the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
“Any interference with the constitutional and legal duties of the BBC and Daily Trust would not be justified in the context of the right to information.
“The Federal Government has 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’s interest in the information provided by the documentaries.”