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ECOWAS Court: NBC Code Infringes on Freedom of Expression for Nigerian Media

Boom RadioNG | November 21, 2023

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court in Abuja has delivered a significant ruling, declaring that the National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC) utilization of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code to penalize and fine broadcast stations constitutes an infringement on their freedom of speech.

This landmark declaration, issued on October 23, resulted from a lawsuit filed by the non-governmental organization Expression Now Human Rights Initiative against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

The court found that the Nigerian government failed in its responsibility to align domestic laws with international commitments. The lawsuit contested the arbitrary imposition of sanctions, including fines, against broadcast stations based on the NBC Code.

Presiding over the court, Justice Dupe Atoki emphasized the importance of member states aligning their legislation with international guarantees and obligations, such as those under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The court ruled that certain articles of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) violated the right to free speech. It highlighted the limitless reach of Article 3(1)(1) as a violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

 

Ecowas Court Building Abuja

 

Furthermore, the court deemed Article 3(1)(2) excessively unclear and vague, potentially leading to the curtailment of freedom of expression. It directed the Nigerian government to halt the implementation of these provisions until they align with international obligations.

This ruling echoes a previous decision in May, where Justice James Omotosho asserted that the NBC lacked the authority to penalize broadcast stations, emphasizing that it was not a court of law.

 

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Written by Boom RadioNG

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