Again, court voids NBC’s powers to fine broadcast organisations

A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja has voided the powers of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to impose fines on broadcast stations.

In a statement by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on Wednesday, January 17, a suit was instituted against NBC following the commission’s imposition of fines of N5 million each on a television station and three pay-TV platforms in 2022 for allegedly undermining Nigeria’s national security by broadcasting documentaries on banditry.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who delivered the judgment, ruled that NBC, which is not a court of law, exceeded its authority by imposing such sanctions.

“The judge commended MRA for its legal challenge of the NBC’s action and issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the commission or anyone acting on its behalf from further imposing any fine on any media platform or broadcast station in Nigeria for any alleged offence committed under the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

 “Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia set aside the fines imposed by the NBC on August 3, 2022, on Multichoice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV; TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV); Trust-TV Network Limited; and NTA Startimes Limited for broadcasting a documentary about the state of banditry and security in Zamfara state, saying the regulator’s action was wrong and unjustifiable in a democratic society”, the statement read in part.

According to MRA, the commission’s action would deter the platforms and stations from reporting the true state of affairs regarding the security situation in Nigeria.

An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Uche Amulu, filed the suit on behalf of MRA and asked the court to, among others, nullify NBC’s action of imposing a fine on each of the media platforms for broadcasting a documentary about the state of banditry and security in Zamfara state.




     

     

    “MRA contended that it would deter the platforms and station from reporting the true state of affairs regarding the security situation in Nigeria, and therefore constitutes a violation of the rights of MRA, its members, and other citizens of Nigeria to freedom of expression, particularly their rights to receive ideas and information without interference, as guaranteed by the Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights,” the statement noted.

    This is not the court’s first ruling against NBC regarding the issue.

    In May 2023, The ICIR reported that the court gave a perpetual injunction restraining NBC from imposing fines on stations.

    In November 2023, this organisation also reported that the commission failed to secure a court order to vacate the ruling stopping it from imposing fines on broadcast stations.

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