The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, and Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, CJID, has dragged the Federal Government to court over the N5m fine imposed on Channels Television.
The fine is in response to the interview with the Labour Party vice-presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed.
The groups are asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional” the N5m fine imposed on the station.
In addition, they want 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.”
Kolawole Oluwadare, the Deputy Director SERAP explained the groups stance in a communication made available to this medium.
Joined in the suit as Defendants are the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, and Mr. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.
But in the suit number 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 in inconsistent and incompatible with access to information and media freedom.”
Also, the plaintiffs are asking the court for “a declaration 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.”
The plaintiffs are also seeking “an order directing and compelling the NBC to reverse its arbitrary and unlawful decision to impose a fine of N5m on Channels TV forthwith.”
In the suit, the plaintiffs are arguing that: “the media has the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest and public interest.”
The plaintiffs are also arguing that, “The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and access to information in a democratic society.”
The plaintiffs also said, “The fine is arbitrary and unlawful and would have a disproportionate and chilling effect on the work of other broadcast stations and journalists and Nigerians.”
The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Andrew Nwankwo, and Ms. Blessing Ogwuche, read in part: “The grounds for imposing a fine of N5m on Channels TV fail to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”
A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the suit.