Home » Court Rules Against NBC’s Power to Fine Broadcasters

Court Rules Against NBC’s Power to Fine Broadcasters

A landmark judgment in favor of media rights and freedom

by Victor Adetimilehin

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has suffered a major setback in its attempt to regulate and sanction broadcast stations for alleged violations of its code of conduct.

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the NBC does not have the authority to impose fines on media outlets without recourse to the courts.

The judgment, delivered by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on Wednesday, was a victory for Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a non-governmental organization that sued the NBC for imposing N5 million fines on Trust Television, MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, Telcom Satellite Limited, and StarTimes Limited for airing a documentary on banditry in Zamfara State in 2020.

MRA, represented by its lawyer Uche Amulu, argued that the NBC lacked the necessary independence and impartiality to act as a judge and jury in its own case, and that only a court of law could determine whether a broadcast station had violated any law or regulation.

The organization also challenged the constitutionality of the NBC’s power to make and amend its code of conduct without any legislative oversight or public consultation.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia agreed with MRA’s arguments and granted all the declarations and injunctions sought by the organization. She set aside the fines imposed by the NBC on the four broadcast stations and declared that the NBC had acted ultra vires, meaning beyond its legal power or authority.

She also declared that the NBC’s code of conduct was invalid and unconstitutional, as it was not made in accordance with the provisions of the NBC Act.

The judge further restrained the NBC from interfering with the editorial independence and freedom of expression of broadcast stations, and from imposing sanctions on them without due process of law.

The ruling is a significant boost for media rights and freedom in Nigeria, as it protects broadcast stations from arbitrary and unlawful interference by the NBC.

It also sets a precedent for other media outlets that may face similar sanctions from NBC in the future.

MRA’s executive director, Edetaen Ojo, hailed the judgment as a triumph of democracy and the rule of law. He said it was a vindication of the organization’s position that the NBC had been abusing its powers and violating the rights of broadcast stations and the public.

Edetaen Ojo urged the NBC to respect the court’s decision and refrain from further acts of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners.

He also called on the National Assembly to amend the NBC Act and bring it in line with the Constitution and international standards on media regulation.

The NBC has not yet reacted to the judgment or indicated whether it will appeal the decision.

The case is one of several lawsuits filed by MRA against the NBC over its actions and policies that affect media freedom and access to information in Nigeria.

MRA is a non-profit organization that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to information in Nigeria and across Africa.

It is also a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of organizations that monitor and campaign for freedom of expression worldwide.

Source: Punch 


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