Art and Culture

SERAP, CJID Sue Buhari, Wants N5m Fine on Trust TV, Others Reversed

todayAugust 8, 2022

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) have filed a suit against President Muhammadu Buhari, asking the court to declare arbitrary and illegal the N5 million imposed on Trust TV, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, NTA-Startimes Limited and TelcCom Satellite Limited, over their documentaries on terrorism in the country.

Joined in the suit as Defendants were the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
The NBC had last week imposed the fines on the media houses, claiming that their documentaries, “glorified the activities of bandits and undermines national security in Nigeria,” and contravened the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

But in the suit with number FHC/L/CS/1486/2022 filed last Friday, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP and CJID sought an order setting aside the arbitrary and illegal fines of N5 million and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC on these media houses simply for carrying out their constitutional duties.

According to the plaintiffs the NBC and Mohammed did not show that the documentaries by the media houses would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public interest in the information provided by the documentaries.

The suit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo read in part: “A fine is a criminal sanction and only the court is empowered by the Constitution to impose it. Fine imposed by regulatory agencies like the NBC without recourse to the courts is unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional.

“The plaintiffs are also seeking the following reliefs. A declaration that the act of the Defendants imposing a fine of five million naira each on the independent media houses is unlawful, inconsistent with, and amounts to a breach of the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and therefore a violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom.

“An order of court setting aside of the fine of N5 million imposed by the Defendants, through the 3rd Defendant, each on Trust TV, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV) and NTA-Startimes Limited for televising the documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation “BBC Africa Eye” titled “Bandits Warlords of Zamfara.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants or any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully shutting down, imposing fine, suspension, withdrawal of license or doing anything whatsoever to harass and intimidate or impose criminal punishment on the independent media houses or any of Nigeria’s journalists and media houses for promoting access to diverse information on issues of public importance; and any other order or other order(s) that the Court deems fit to make in the circumstances. No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.”

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todayAugust 8, 2022

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