A Federal High Court in Abuja will be hearing a matter against the National Broadcasting Corporation, over its move to regulate and license social media platforms.
The suit was brought by the Media Rights Agenda challenging the legal authority of the NBC to regulate social media platforms; or to determine whether a platform is patriotic or not.
MRA is praying the court for a declaration that the NBC has no regulatory authority over social media platforms and cannot impose broadcast licences on social media platforms.
Social media platforms are not broadcasting stations as contemplated under the NBC Act and other legislation in Nigeria.
It is also praying the court to declare that the move by the NBC to regulate social media platforms violate the right to freedom of expression as provided under Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties.
MRA is praying the court for the following reliefs:
“A declaration that it is not within the regulatory authority of the NBC under the NBC Act or any other law in existence in Nigeria to determine whether a broadcasting station is patriotic or not.
“A declaration that the NBC’s directive to broadcasting stations to de-install their Twitter handles and not use Twitter as a source of information gathering for their news and programmes is ultra vires and violates its fundamental rights to seek and receive information and to express and disseminate opinions under the freedom of expression guarantees contained in section 39 of the Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter, Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 19 of the UDHR and is also a violation of Nigeria’s treaty obligations by virtue of the country being a signatory to the international instruments, as the NBC’s regulatory authority does not extend to directing licensed broadcasting stations on where they should source their news and information, while the commission has no power to instruct broadcasting stations to deinstall their Twitter handles under the NBC Act or any other law or subsidiary legislation in Nigeria; and
“A perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney-General of the Federation and the NBC or their servants and agents, from the unlawful imposition of sanctions or restrictions on Twitter or any other social media platform, and from harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention or prosecution of MRA over the use of Twitter and/or any other social media platform or in any other manner infringing on or interfering with its fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter, Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 19 of the UDHR.”
The respondents in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and the NBC.