Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the warning to media houses to stop reporting terror attacks.
SERAP told Buhari to instruct Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the directive.
The NBC had ordered journalists, television and radio stations to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers,” during their daily newspaper reviews.
A letter dated 17 July, 2021, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare said the NBC’s action was entirely inconsistent 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.
“We would be grateful if the repressive directive is withdrawn within 24 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”
The organization lamented that the NBC’s directive would impermissibly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.
SERAP noted that reports and publications on the growing violence and killings in many parts of the country is a matter of public interest.
The letter said the threat of fines and other punishment, would have a disproportionate chilling effect on the work of those seeking to hold the government accountable to the public.
The rights group said the vague definitions of ‘too many details’, ‘glamourising’, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ also raise concern that the NBC’s directive unduly interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and information.