The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has suspended Channels TV, one of Nigeria’s most watched television stations, and the decision has led to condemnations and disbelief.
In a statement to Today News Africa, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately reverse the arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegal decision to suspend Channels Television, and to impose a fine of N5 million on the station purportedly for breaching the broadcast code.”
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.”
But SERAP in a statement today by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The suspension of Channels Television is unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, and without any legal basis whatsoever. The government and NBC should immediately lift the suspension and reverse the fine. We will pursue appropriate legal action if the arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegal suspension and fine are not reversed within 48 hours.”
SERAP said: “This action by the government and NBC is yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices. The government and NBC lift the suspension and uphold the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom.
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.”