Reacting upon President Bola Tinubu’s decision to revoke the accreditations of 25 journalists and media outlets, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has moved to sue him. Vanguard Newspapers, Galaxy TV, Ben TV, MITV, ITV Abuja, PromptNews, ONTV, and Liberty journalists are among those who have been blacklisted, according to reports. Reporters and cameramen from TV, radio, newspaper, and internet media were also impacted. Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, and Miss Valentina Adegoke, lawyers for SERAP, filed a lawsuit arguing that “The ban on the journalists from covering the Presidential Villa fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”
Furthermore, the association claims that the accreditation tags of the impacted journalists were confiscated at the front gate of the Presidential Villa. They filled the lawsuit on Friday with the Federal High Court in Lagos, with the tag FHC/L/CS/1766/23, requesting “an order to direct and compel President Tinubu to reverse the revocation of the accreditations and ban on the journalists and media houses from covering the Presidential Villa.” SERAP is also petitioning for “an order of perpetual injunction to restrain President Tinubu or any other authority, person or group of persons from arbitrarily and unilaterally revoking the accreditations of any journalists and media houses from covering the Presidential Villa.”
There must be access to media freedom to exercise democracy.
It also seeks a declaration that the government’s arbitrary decision to remove accreditation tags from journalists and media outlets and prohibit them from reporting on events at the Presidential Villa violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, access to information, participation in government, and freedom of the press. SERAP claims in the lawsuit that the public’s right to free expression, access to information, participation, and media freedom will be hampered if the arbitrary ban on the journalists covering the Presidential Villa is not overturned.
When it comes to individual and societal expression and access to information, the media plays a crucial role in a democratic society. For an effective operation of democratic society as intended, there must be access to a free, independent, robust, pluralistic, and diversified media. Without a variety of news and information sources and media outlets, it would be impossible for thoughts and reports to spread freely. More so, the lack of diverse sources of information poses a formidable impediment to the proper functioning of democratic systems.
This could damper newsgathering and reporting processes.
Also, it was mentioned that the promotion of public and democratic debates depends on the protection of the media’s role in exercising the right to freedom of expression. In order to fully exercise other human rights and to participate in the governance system in an educated and reasoned manner, the right to freedom of expression must be protected and upheld. Freedom of the press, information availability, free speech, and citizen involvement are all important, and the federal government should work to strengthen these rights rather than limit them.
By denying these reporters and broadcasters access to the Presidential Villa, you are preventing them from fulfilling a constitutionally mandated duty, SERAP added. Revoking these journalists’ accreditation is an infringement on press freedom, as well as other human rights encompassing access to information and participation. It could lead to self-censorship and put a serious damper on the newsgathering and reporting processes. As the journalists’ accreditations were revoked, it would make it more difficult for the people to get information about the government’s actions, which they have a constitutional right to.
Individuals have the right to receive information according to law.
Maintaining a transparent and accountable government requires press freedom, accessible information, and the ability to voice opinions. In a democratic society, these rights take precedence above concerns about press gallery crowding and ambiguous security measures. Moreover, Section 14(2)(c) of the Constitution provides that ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. Similarly, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides that, ‘Every individual shall have the right to receive information. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions’.