The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the threat to sanction the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Daily Trust Newspaper over their documentaries on terrorism in the country.
SERAP stated that if the president fails to instruct the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed to withdraw the threat within 24 hours it will drag the government to court.
The civil society organisation made the demands in an open letter dated July 30, 2022 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
SERAP maintained, in the letter addressed to President Buhari, that the media has the duty to impart information and ideas on issues of public importance and that if the two media houses are sanctioned it would inhibit the media in Nigeria from reporting on issues of public interest.
The organisation also stressed that 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.
It further stated that rather than punishing the media for promoting access to diverse opinions and information on issues of public importance the government should focus on delivering its promises to ensure the security of Nigerians.
SERAP also insisted that carrying out the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would lessen the flow of diverse viewpoints and information to the public.
The civil society organisation stated, “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,” it stated.
SERAP also pointed out that 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.
It also claimed that allowing the media to freely carry out their duties is essential to building a 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 fuelling terrorism and banditry’ are not used as a pretext to unduly intrude upon the rights to freedom of expression and access to information,” SERAP stated.
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