Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently instruct the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), to withdraw the 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.
SERAP also asked the president to instruct the information minister and the NBC to immediately rescind the fine of N5 million 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.
The NBC last week issued a stern warning to journalists and broadcast stations, stating that “to denigrate our governors, lawmakers, elders and leaders in abusive terms is not our culture. We respect our leaders as a positive cultural value. The Commission may be compelled to impose sanctions where stations fail to curb this practice.”
In the letter dated 15 August 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said rather than pushing to enforce a culture to respect president, governors, lawmakers, elders, and other leaders, the minister and the NBC should use their public office and mandates to promote a culture of public debate, access to information, transparency and accountability in government.
According to SERAP, 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.
“The alleged ‘cultural codes’, which Mr Muhammed and NBC are now using to punish journalists, broadcast stations and other Nigerians are patently contrary to the public interests,” it said.
SERAP said 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.