the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project or SERAP and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development or CJID have filed suit challenging the National Commission or NBC’s five million Naira fine imposed on Channels Television for comments made by Ahmed Datti, the Labour Party Vice Presidential candidate while appearing on a show.
The duo is asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional the N5m fine imposed on Channels Television over a recent interview with the Labour Party vice-presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed.”
In the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/616/2023 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Lagos, the plaintiffs are asking the court to determine “whether the NBC code used to impose a fine of N5m on Channels TV and the threat of ‘higher sanctions’ is not inconsistent and incompatible with access to information and media freedom.”
The plaintiffs also prayed the court to declare “that the NBC code used by the NBC to impose a fine of N5m on Channels TV and the threat of ‘higher sanctions’ is arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates the rights to a fair hearing, freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”
They are also asking the court to make “an order setting aside the N5m fine for being inconsistent and incompatible with section 22, 36 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
In the suit, the plaintiffs argued that: “the media has the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest and public interest” and that “Imposing any fine whatsoever without due process of law is arbitrary and unconstitutional, as it contravenes the fundamental principles of nemo judex in causa sua which literally means one cannot be a judge in his own case and audi alteram partem which means no one should be condemned unheard.”
“The NBC Act and Broadcasting Code cannot and should not be used in a manner that is inconsistent and incompatible with plurality of voices, diversity of voices, non-discrimination, just demands of a democratic society, and the public interest,” the plaintiff said.
They described the fine as “arbitrary and unlawful“, adding that it “would have a disproportionate and chilling effect on the work of other broadcast stations and journalists and Nigerians.”
Defendants in the suit are President Muhamadu Buhari, the NBC, and Mr. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.