The Nigerian government has been dragged to court over a “gag order” stopping journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development filed the lawsuit on Friday against President Muhammadu and Minister of Information Lai Mohammed as defendants.
Also joined as defendant is the National Broadcasting Commission as a defendant.
NBC had asked 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, SERAP and PTCIJ argued that the failure by the regime of 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.
Therefore, they are seeking a perpetual injunction “restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed 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 during daily newspaper reviews.
The plaintiffs are also asking the court “to compel and direct the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to withdraw the directive asking journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting details on terrorist attacks and victims, as the directive is unlawful and inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international human rights obligations.
“An order setting aside the directive on reporting of terrorist attacks and victims, for being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
According to the plaintiffs, “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.”