Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the “unconstitutional and illegal” fines imposed on Channels TV, AIT and Arise TV over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests.
Tribune Online reports that the acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, earlier on Monday issued the notice of N3 million fine each on the three stations over “unprofessional coverage” of the protests.
But SERAP in a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare stated that the fines were condemnable and is an attempt to silence independent media and voices, adding that it would institute legal actions if the fines are not withdrawn in 48 hours.
The statement read in part: “This action by the NBC is yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices. The NBC should drop the fines and uphold the Nigerian constitution and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom. We will sue the NBC if the unconstitutional fines are not rescinded within 48 hours.
“This is a new low in Nigeria’s protection of freedom of expression, and the ability of independent media to function in the country. The fines are detrimental to media freedom, and access to information and the NBC must immediately withdraw the decision.
“Media freedom and media plurality are a central part of the effective exercise of freedom of expression and access to information. The ability to practice journalism free from undue interference, to cover peaceful protests and critical views are crucial to the exercise of many other rights and freedoms.
“The media has a vital role to play as ‘public watchdog’ in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role. The NBC should stop targeting and intimidating independent media and voices.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should caution the NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media houses and to respect the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
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The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has convened a meeting with stakeholders and has agreed to meet all demands raised by the #EndSARS protesters, which include halting use of force against protesters and unconditional release of arrested citizens.
Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said the state government has earmarked N200million as compensation for families of victims of #EndSars protest.