The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed to withdraw the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust over their documentaries on terrorism in the country.
Mohammed had last week stated that the federal government would sanction the BBC and Trust Tv for airing documentaries that allegedly “fuel” terrorism and banditry in Nigeria.
In a letter dated 30th July and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said the media has the duty to impart information and ideas on issues of public importance and if carried out, the threat to sanction the media houses would inhibit the media from reporting on issues of public interest.
According to SERAP, rather than punishing the media for promoting access to diverse opinions and information on issues of public importance, the government should focus on delivering its promises to ensure the security of Nigerians.
The letter read in part: “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 in the public interest.
A free, uncensored, and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other rights. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society.
“Sanctioning the BBC and Daily Trust would be entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The threat if carried out would impermissibly restrict the constitutional and international rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.
“The documentaries by the BBC and Daily pose no risk to any definite interest in national security or public order. The cumulative effect of any attempt to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would be the gagging of the media from reporting on cases of violence and killings by terrorists and kidnappers, the reporting and information that is clearly in the public interest.”