The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has to caution the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from threatening to punish Nigerians if they ‘insult’ politicians, the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) has charged.
In reaction to a letter purportedly issued by Chibuike Ogwumike, a Zonal Director of NBC in Lagos, SERAP warned that abusing, denigrating and insulting president, governors or politicians by Nigerians would attract sanction.
“We urge President Buhari to caution the National Broadcasting Commission to refrain from threatening Nigerians with punishment if they “insult President, governors, senators and other leaders,” the tweet read.
Subsequently, the NBC has fined a Lagos-based radio station – Nigeria Info 99.3 FM N5 million.
In a statement obtained by Channels Television on Thursday, the commission said the fine was imposed as a result of unprofessional broadcast by the media outfit.
SERAP demanded that Nigerian authorities should stop stifling freedom of expression under the pretext of insult.’
According to SERAP, “the crime of insult is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended), and international human rights law.”
It noted that public figures could be subjected to criticisms and such criticism should not be welcomed with threats of punishment.
“Public figures including those exercising the highest political authority like President and Governors, may be subject to criticism and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties,” SERAP wrote.
SERAP further charged Buhari to ‘immediately repeal all laws punishing Nigerians simply for exercising their human rights, and to ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone’.
In the NBC letter, Ogwumike had said, “The recourse to abusing, denigrating and insulting the President, Governors, MPs and other leaders does not show us as cultured people.
“Please note that the commission may be compelled to impose sanctions where stations fail to curb this practice.”