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JUST IN: SERAP threatens legal actions against NBC over Channels suspension 

By Monsuruden Olowoopejo

Following N5 million fine imposed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Channels Television for granting a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) interview on issues affecting the country, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to drag NBC before the court if it does not reverse the penalty placed on the Television station.

SERAP, who described NBC decision on Channels as arbitrary, unconstitutional, and illegal, stated that appropriate legal action would be instituted if the actions were not reversed within 48 hours.”

The organisation stressed that the actions were yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices that were protecting interest of the masses.

SERAP, in a statement titled: Lift suspension of Channels TV or face legal action, and made available to The Guild on Monday by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, stated that the Federal Government and NBC lift suspension and uphold the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom.

While urging President Muhammadu Buhari and NBC to reverse the actions, the organisation stated that it would be better for the government yield the caution than to be drag before any court of law in the country.

According to reports, the Acting Director-General of the Commission, NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba in a letter to the Managing Director of Channels Television referred to Channels 7pm live broadcast programme of Sunday, 25th April, 2021, in which it accused the TV station of interviewing a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) allegedly without “caution or reprimand.”

The statement, read in part: “This is a new low in Nigeria’s protection of freedom of expression, and the ability of independent media to function in the country. The suspension of Channels Television is detrimental to media freedom, and access to information, and the Federal Government and NBC must immediately reverse the decision.”

“Media freedom and media plurality are a central part of the effective exercise of freedom of expression and access to information. The ability to practice journalism free from undue interference, to cover diverse views are crucial to the exercise of many other rights and freedoms.”

“The media has a vital role to play as ‘public watchdog’ in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role. The Federal Government and NBC should stop targeting and intimidating independent media and voices.”

“The government of President Buhari has a responsibility to protect Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

“This suspension amounts to an arbitrary and unjust application of regulations against the media. International standards allow only official restrictions on the content of what the media can broadcast or print in extremely narrow circumstances.”

“Article 20 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified requires states to prohibit only advocacy that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Restrictions must be clearly defined, specific, necessary, and proportionate to the threat to interest protected.”

“President Muhammadu Buhari should caution the NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media houses and to respect the Nigerian Constitution, and the country’s international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”.

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