The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has written President Muhammadu Buhari in seeking reversal of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to review its newly introduced broadcasting code, memo threatening to sanction stations and N5 million fine imposed on Lagos based radio station, Nigeria Info by the NBC.
It explained that the ‘cultural code’ being bandied around by the NBC and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, was in a bid to allegedly punish journalists, broadcast stations and other Nigerians and that the code was against public interest.
SERAP Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, alleged that ‘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’ contained in the code and subsequent memo by the minister.
Through an open letter to the President, Kolawole urged Buhari to “urgently instruct Lai Mohammed, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the apparently illegal Broadcasting Code and Memo threatening to sanction any broadcast that denigrates, disrespects, insults, and abuses president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority.”
He 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.”
In the letter dated 15 August 2020, the organization said: “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.
“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.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the implementation of the code and the memo would lead to unjust punishment and self-censorship among journalists and the media, and exacerbate the growing level of impunity for attacks on media freedom.
“Self-censorship would undermine media freedom and the right to receive and impart information, public debate and further impair the ability of Nigerians to hold to account public officials and politicians accused of grand corruption.”
“SERAP is concerned that the action by Mr Muhammed and NBC has further undermined public trust in government and politicians, as it shows that public officials are taking for granted their entrusted public functions, and accountability to Nigerians,” the letter read.