In a significant legal victory, the ECOWAS Court of Justice has ruled against certain provisions of Nigeria’s Broadcasting Code, asserting that they infringe upon the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The judgment, delivered on October 23, 2023, comes in response to a case filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Expression Now Human Rights Initiative, a dedicated Non-Governmental Organization committed to safeguarding the freedom of expression for Nigerian citizens both online and offline.
The case revolved around specific provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, specifically Articles 3 (1) (1), 3 (1) (2), and Amendment Article 15 (5) (1), which the Applicant argued limited freedom of expression rights. The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Respondent, contended that the provisions were in place to promote local content, prevent monopolistic practices, and maintain public order.
The ECOWAS Court, presided over by a panel of judges including Dupe Atoki, Sengu Mohamed Koroma, and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves, acknowledged its jurisdiction and found the contested provisions to be in violation of Article 9 (1) & (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Consequently, the court ordered the Nigerian government to align the specified articles with international obligations and to cease enforcing them until they are brought in line with the ruling.
This landmark judgment serves as a significant milestone in protecting the freedom of expression for Nigerian citizens, reaffirming the importance of upholding fundamental human rights in the region.