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Withdraw threat to shut Raypower FM, AIT, Silverbird TV, others, SERAP urges Buhari

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has told the President Muhammadu Buhari to urge the National Broadcasting Commission to withdraw a threat to shut down Raypower FM, AIT, Silverbird TV, Rhythm FM and 49 others.

National Broadcasting Commission, NBC on Friday revoked the licenses of the 53 broadcast stations and threatened to shut down their operations within 24 hours over alleged N2.6 billion debt.

But in a letter dated August 20, 2022, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation urged Buhari “to urgently instruct Mr Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the NBC to withdraw the threat or face prosecution.”

According to SERAP, “Revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shutting down their operations because they have not renewed their licenses would undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts.”

The letter read in parts: “It would also violate Nigerians’ right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.”

“We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 24 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“The NBC Act and Broadcasting Code cannot and should not be used in a manner that is inconsistent and incompatible with plurality of voices, diversity of voices, non-discrimination, and just demands of a democratic society, as well as the public interest.”

“When money or economic considerations are the major criteria for renewing licenses for broadcast stations, the fundamental principles of equal access to the media, pluralism and diversity are compromised.

“Broadcasting is a means of exercising freedom of expression. Any restrictions on freedom of expression must meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality. Any regulation of broadcasting must respect these three requirements.

“With just months to go before the general elections, scheduled for February 2023, your government ought to do more to create conditions for a free and fair vote. This includes demonstrated commitment to freedom of expression.

“Shutting down 53 broadcast stations on the pretext of non-renewal of their licenses is neither necessary in a democratic society nor proportionate to meet the constitutional and international guarantees of freedom of expression.

“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.

“Rather than using the NBC Act and Broadcasting Code to shut down 53 broadcast stations, your government ought to use these frameworks to promote the broadest, freest, and most independent exercise of freedom of expression for the widest variety of groups and individuals possible.

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