The Federal High Court in Lagos has stopped President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations.
The court also halted the government’s plan to shut down the stations for allegedly failing to renew their licenses.
Justice Akintayo Aluko on Monday granted an order of interim injunction by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
SERAP and NGE are asking the court to declare that section 10(a) in the NBC Act that NBC used to threaten to revoke the licenses and shut down the stations as unconstitutional and unlawful, saying it violates freedom of expression.
They asked the court for an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari, NBC, and government agents from revoking the licenses and shutting their own operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.
SERAP and NGE insist that revoking the licenses of the broadcast stations would “seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.”
They said freedom of expression includes the public’s right to receive, and the right of those who express themselves through a medium of communication to impart the greatest possible diversity of information and ideas.
“The right to freedom of expression is based on the right to establish or use a media outlet to exercise freedom of expression and on society’s right to have access to a free, independent, and pluralistic media that allows for the most and most diverse information,” SERAP and NGE said.
“Any restrictions on freedom of expression must meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality. The regulation of broadcasting must aspire to promote and expand the scope of the right to freedom of expression, not restrict it.”
The suit has been adjourned to Tuesday, September 8 for a hearing.