The decision by the Nigerian government to impose fines on at least three television stations for their coverage of peaceful protests has triggered outrage.
In a statement on Monday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) “condemned the unconstitutional and illegal fines of N9m reportedly imposed by the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] on Channels TV, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] purportedly over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests.”
The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, announced at a press conference in Abuja on Monday that the agency had fined Channels Television, Arise Television and Africa Independent Television for what it termed “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests.
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Reacting, SERAP in a statement by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “This action by the NBC is yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices. The NBC should drop the fines and uphold Nigerian constitution and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom. We will sue the NBC if the unconstitutional fines are not rescinded within 48 hours.”
The organization said: “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 the NBC must immediately withdraw the decision.”
The statement, read in part: “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 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 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.”