SERAP asks African Commission to order FG, NASS to withdraw bills to gag media

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia, to “issue provisional measures to urgently stop the Nigerian government and National Assembly from supporting and pushing through two bills to gag the media, and impose arbitrary and harsh punishment on journalists, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners in Nigeria.”

In a statement on Sunday, SERAP said: “the complaint, addressed to the Chairperson of the Commission Mr Solomon Ayele Dersso, and Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Ms Jamesina Essie L. King, is brought pursuant to Articles 55 and 56 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Rule 100 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission.”

The complaint followed the move to push through two repressive bills to amend the National Broadcasting Act, and to amend the Nigeria Press Council Act. The bills are reportedly sponsored by Chairman, House Committee on Information, Mr Segun Odebunmi (PDP, Oyo State). Dated June 26, 2021, and signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “The push by the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to support and pass the two anti-media bills is unlawful, as passing the bills would be contrary to the country’s obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom under articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.”

According to the rights group, “these anti-media bills are the latest threats to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom in the country. The bills are not in keeping with the provisions of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which supplements articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.”

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