Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the ‘last warning’ and threat to revoke the licences of broadcast stations and shut them down over their coverage of elections and post-election matters.
The NBC had last week threatened to revoke licences of broadcast stations and shut them down if they continue to allow unpatriotic individuals on their platforms to make utterances that were subversive, hateful, and inciting, and negative conversations particularly post-2023 presidential election.
But in a letter dated March 11, 2023, which was signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, the ‘last warning’ and threat by the NBC if not immediately withdrawn would limit freedom of expression and the ability of broadcast stations to cover important issues around the 2023 general elections.
According to SERAP, threatening to shut down and revoke the licences of broadcast stations simply for carrying out their ‘watchdog role’ was clearly incompatible with Nigeria’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.
The letter read in part: “Political expression is a fundamental right. The threat by the NBC creates a significant risk that legitimate expression may be prohibited.
“Such unlawful prohibition may prevent transparency and dissemination of information on legitimate issues of public interest around the 2023 general elections.
“We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”