Socio–Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the Federal Government and Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Muhammed from using the unlawful directive to TV and radio stations not to use Twitter and to delete their accounts, as a pretext to harass, intimidate, suspend or impose criminal punishment on journalists and broadcast stations.
The suit followed the order by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) asking TV and radio stations to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”, and telling them to delete ‘unpatriotic’ Twitter, after the social media giant was banned in the country for deleting President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/496/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed and any other persons from censoring, regulating, licensing and controlling the social media operations and contents by broadcast stations, and activities of social media service providers in Nigeria.”
SERAP is also seeking an order setting aside the directive by NBC and Muhammed that broadcast stations stop using Twitter, as it is unconstitutional, unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
“The government of President Buhari, NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have consistently made policies and given directives to crackdown on media freedom, and the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information, and to impose crippling fines and other sanctions on broadcast stations without any legal basis whatsoever. The court has an important role to play in the protection and preservation of the rule of law to ensure that persons and institutions operate within the defined ambit of constitutional and statutory limitations.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.