In Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “instruct the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, to withdraw the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust over their documentaries on terrorism in the country, whether through the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) or other government agency.”
Last Thursday, the minister stated that the government would sanction the BBC and Trust Tv for airing documentaries that allegedly “glorify” and “promote” terrorism and banditry in the country.
In a letter issued 30 July by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, he said, “The media must impart information and ideas on issues of public importance. If carried out, the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would prevent the media from reporting on issues of public interest.”
“Media houses and journalists ought to be given the space to determine how best to present information of public interest, especially about the growing violence and killings across the country,” noted SERAP.
The organisation further stated that “Carrying out the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would lessen the flow of diverse viewpoints and information to the public.”
“We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 48 hours of this letter’s receipt and publication. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest,” the letter read.
The organisation also added that “Sanctioning the BBC and Daily Trust would be 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.”
According to the organisation, “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 central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.”
However, “The Federal Government, according to SERAP, has not shown that the documentaries would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public’s interest in the information provided by the documentaries.”