FG Dragged to ECOWAS Court over Hate Speech Enforcement

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A group, Expression Now Human Rights Initiative, has dragged the federal government before the ECOWAS Court over the provisions and enforcement of hate speech in the Nigerian Broadcasting Code (NBC) 6th Edition and its amendments.

The non-governmental organisation filed the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/ through Lagos lawyer, Mr. Solomon Okedara.

Okedara argued in the application dated September 4, 2020, that “while the focus of many Nigerians is on N5million fine which the NBC Code (6th Edition) imposes in its amendments; the code even imposes other far-reaching penalties.

“For example Article 15.2.1 of the Code provides for sanctions such as ‘Immediate order of suspension of broadcast services, suspension of license and immediate shut down/seal up of transmitter; and revocation of license, seizure and forfeiture of transmitting equipment’

The Lagos-based lawyer contended that while the N5million fine is “disproportionate and unjustifiable, penalties like ‘suspension of broadcast services, suspension of licence, shut down/seal up of transmitter’ are excessive and disproportionate and can have far more damaging effect on free speech.”

Okedara further argued that the definition of ‘Hate Speech’ as given in the Code is ‘vague, ambiguous and overbroad.’

The lawyer also noted that the Code criminalises “offensive reference” and wondered if the drafters of the code realised that making “offensive reference” is integral to free speech and important to open, diverse and heterogeneous society.