• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Court stops NBC from shutting down the media houses

Court nullifies NBC’s power to impose fines on broadcast stations

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday, 29th August, stopped President Muhammadu Buhari, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting down for allegedly failing to renew their licenses.

Justice Akintayo Aluko granted an order of interim injunction following the hearing of an argument on motion exparte by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the Nigerian Guild of Editors.

Socio-Economic Right & Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) last week filed a lawsuit against Buhari and the NBC, asking the court for “a declaration that section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by the NBC to threaten to revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the stations is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression”.

In the suit, SERAP and the NGE had asked the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and NBC, their agents from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting down their operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

The suit is adjourned to September 8, 2022, for the hearing of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.

The suit followed the decision by NBC to revoke the licenses of the 53 broadcast stations and shut down their operations within 24 hours over alleged N2.6 billion debt.

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In suit number FHC/L/CS/1582/2022, SERAP and the NGE are asking the court to determine “whether section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by NBC to threaten to revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shut them down is not in inconsistent with freedom of expression and access to information.”

SERAP and the NGE are also seeking “a declaration that section 10(a) of the National Broadcasting Act used by the NBC to unilaterally revoke the licenses of the broadcast stations and shutdown the stations is a violation of the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair hearing.”

The suit read in part, “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.”

“Effectively, these provisions recognize that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.”

“The use of the NBC Act and Code, in this case, would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protecting the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.”

“According to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ‘licensing processes shall seek to promote diversity in broadcasting. Any registration system for the media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.’”

“Revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shutting down their operations because they have not renewed their licenses would both seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.”

“Freedom of expression includes the public’s right to receive, and the right of those who express themselves through a medium of communication, to impart the greatest possible diversity of information and ideas.”

“The right to freedom of expression is based on the right to establish or use a media outlet to exercise freedom of expression and on society’s right to have access to a free, independent, and pluralistic media that allows for the most and most diverse information.”