Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sent an open letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), urging him to “urgently” instruct Mr Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the National Broadcasting Commission to withdraw the “illegal” Broadcasting Code and Memo.
The code threatens to “sanction any broadcast that denigrates, disrespects, insults, and abuses president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority.”
SERAP also asked President Buhari to “instruct Mr Mohammed and the NBC to immediately rescind the fine of N5m imposed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM radio station, following reported comments by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Malafia, during an interview with the station.”
The NBC last week reportedly issued a stern warning to journalists and broadcast stations, stating that “to denigrate our governors, lawmakers, elders and leaders in abusive terms is not our culture. We respect our leaders as a positive cultural value. The Commission may be compelled to impose sanctions where stations fail to curb this practice.”
In the letter dated 15 August 2020 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation added, “Rather than pushing to enforce a culture to respect president, governors, lawmakers, elders, and other leaders, Mr Muhammed and the NBC should use their entrusted public office and mandates to promote a culture of public debate, access to information, transparency and accountability in government.
“Nothing can be more destructive to people’s exercise of basic human rights, and to democratic politics than the suppression of the media, and media freedom. The alleged ‘cultural codes’, which Mr Muhammed and the NBC are now using to punish journalists, broadcast stations and other Nigerians are patently contrary to the public interests.
“The implementation of the code and the memo would further deter meaningful citizens’ engagement, and have a chilling effect on Nigerians’ human rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, undermine the idea of representative democracy, as well as make public officials less responsive to the people.”