In a significant legal development, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Bola Tinubu for the alleged unlawful ban and withdrawal of accreditations from 25 journalists and media houses covering the Presidential Villa.
The Federal Government’s recent decision to revoke the accreditations of approximately 25 journalists who had been reporting on events at the Presidential Villa in Abuja has sparked outrage and legal action. At the main entrance of the Presidential Villa, affected journalists were reportedly instructed to surrender their accreditation tags.
In suit number FHC/L/CS/1766/23, filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order to direct and compel President Tinubu to reverse the revocation of the accreditations and the ban on 25 journalists and media houses from covering the Presidential Villa.”
According to SERAP’s lawyers, including Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, Kolawole Oluwadare, and Ms. Valentina Adegoke, the ban on journalists fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality. They argue that the media plays an essential role in facilitating freedom of expression, access to information, and democratic participation in society.
The suit further states, “The withdrawal of the accreditation tags of these journalists directly violates media freedom and human rights, including access to information and the right to participation. It would have a significant chilling effect on newsgathering and reporting functions, and may lead to self-censorship.”
It is emphasized that the withdrawal of accreditations constructs barriers between Nigerians and vital information about their government’s operations, a right protected by the Nigerian Constitution.
The banned journalists reportedly represent various media outlets, including Vanguard newspaper, Galaxy TV, Ben TV, MITV, ITV Abuja, PromptNews, ONTV, and Liberty. The affected media personnel include reporters and cameramen from various broadcast, print, and online media organizations.
The lawsuit cites constitutional provisions, including section 22, which guarantees the media’s freedom to uphold fundamental objectives and the government’s responsibility and accountability to the people. Additionally, section 14(2)(c) underscores the importance of people’s participation in their government in accordance with the Constitution’s provisions.
As of now, no date has been fixed for the hearing of this crucial legal case, which could have far-reaching implications for press freedom and access to information in Nigeria.