The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has faulted the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] over the fine imposed on three television stations in the country after the Lekki Shooting coverage, saying the action was unconstitutional and unjustifiable.
It explained that the fines imposed on the stations including Channels TV, African Independent Television (AIT), and Arise TV at N3 million respectively for covering activities of youths protesting against police brutality and accompanied shootings at Lekki toll gate were illegal.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said that the purported fines were testament to the alleged Federal Government’s stance on stifling voices and suppress the freedom of expression as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Through a statement released to newsmen on Monday, said that the NBC action was another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices, adding that plans were being concluded to take legal action against NBC over the fines if not rescind within 48 hours.
According to him, NBC should drop the fines and uphold the Nigerian constitution and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom.
“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 fines are detrimental to media freedom, and access to information and NBC must immediately withdraw 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 peaceful protests and critical views is 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. NBC should stop targeting and intimidating independent media and voices. President Muhammadu Buhari should caution the NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media houses and to respect the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] 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,” the statement read.
It would be recalled that the NBC’s acting Director-General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, had during a press conference earlier on Monday announced that the agency fined the three stations for what it termed “unprofessional coverage” of the EndSARS protests.