Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, asking the court to declare illegal, the gag order stopping journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.
The suit followed the recent directive by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers during their daily newspaper reviews.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/725/2021 filed last Friday on behalf of SERAP and PTCIJ by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, they sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari or any other persons from imposing fines or other sanctions on broadcast stations for carrying out their constitutional duties of reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.
The organisations also sought an order to compel the NBC and Lai Mohammed to withdraw the directive asking journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting details on terrorist attacks and victims, as the directive was unlawful and inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international human rights obligations.
According to SERAP, “Unless the reliefs sought are urgently granted by this Honourable Court, the directive by the NBC and Mr. Lai Muhammed would be used to impermissibly restrict Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies.
“The failure by the government of President Buhari to direct the NBC to withdraw its directive on reporting of terrorist attacks and victims violates sections 5[a] and [b], 147 and 148 of the Nigerian Constitution, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1], and Oath of office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application for interim injunction, and the substantive suit.
Udora Orizu in Abuja