Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called upon President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently instruct the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to withdraw the threat to sanction Daily Trust and the BBC over their documentaries on banditry.
Mohammed had last Thursday stated that the federal government would sanction the two media organisations for airing documentaries that allegedly glorified, promoted and fuelled terrorism and banditry in Nigeria.
In a July 30 letter signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “The media has the duty to impart information and ideas on issues of public importance. If carried out, the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would inhibit the media from reporting on issues of public interest.
“Media houses and journalists ought to be given the room to determine how best to present information of public interest, especially information about the growing violence and killings across the country.”
“Rather than punishing the media for promoting access to diverse opinions and information on issues of public importance, your government should focus on delivering your promises to ensure the security of Nigerians.”
The organisation warned that carrying out the threat to sanction the BBC and Daily Trust would lessen the flow of diverse viewpoints and information to the public.
SERAP urged the president to take action within 48 hours of the receipt or publication of the letter, failing which it would “Take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”
It added, “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.”