Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has filed a law suit against President Bola Tinubu over the unlawful ban and withdrawal of the accreditations of 25 journalists from covering the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Recall that on 18 August 2023, the Federal Government had withdrew the accreditation tags of 25 journalists and media houses from covering activities at the Presidential Villa.
The affected journalists were told at the main gate of the Presidential Villa to submit their accreditation tags.
Reacting, SERAP through its lawyers, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, Kolawole Oluwadare, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, urged the president to reverse the revocation of the accreditations and ban on 25 journalists and media houses or meet in court.
The suit read: “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.”
SERAP is also seeking: “A declaration that the withdrawal and revocation of accreditation tags and ban on the journalists and media houses from covering the Presidential Villa without any lawful justifications is inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, participation, and media freedom.
If not reversed, the arbitrary ban on the journalists from covering the Presidential Villa would open the door to other cases of arbitrariness and would restrict people’s right to freedom of expression, access to information, participation, and media freedom.
The withdrawal of the accreditations of the journalists is without any lawful justifications. It is inconsistent and incompatible with plurality of voices, diversity of voices, non-discrimination, and just demands of a democratic society, as well as the public interest.
“The ban on the journalists from covering the Presidential Villa fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and access to information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.
“The existence of a free, independent, vigorous, pluralistic, and diverse media is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society.
The free circulation of ideas and news is not possible except in the context of a plurality of sources of information and media outlets. The lack of plurality in sources of information is a serious obstacle for the functioning of democracy.
“The exercise of the right to freedom of expression through the media is a guarantee that is fundamental for advancing the collective deliberative process on public and democratic issues.
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.
Media freedom, access to information and the right to participation are necessary for the maintenance of an open and accountable government. These freedoms are so fundamental in a democracy that they trump any vague grounds of ‘security concerns and overcrowding of the press gallery area.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.