The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has accused the federal government of suppressing the freedom of expression.
CWPPF said this in a statement issued at the end of a meeting in Lagos on Friday.
It said from January till date, the media has recorded 71 attacks, calling on the African Union to prevail on the Nigerian government to respect the rights of the media.
“The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) notes the alarming trend of media censorship by state authorities in Nigeria. We observe that public officers and influential individuals are increasingly intolerant of critical reporting and fair comments by journalists,” the statement read.
“They, therefore, resort to the use of instruments of state criminal justice system to suppress freedom of expression and free press. From January 2019 till date, we have recorded 71 attacks on the media, including arrests, intimidation, detention and killings. We, as a coalition, totally condemn this abuse of power by state actors and security agencies.
“Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution and several international instruments acceded to by Nigeria guarantee the right to press freedom as the media exercise their statutory duties. The right of citizens to freedom of expression, to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also guarantees the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media.
“The flagrant disobedience of court orders and the charges of treason, terrorism and cybercrimes against citizens by Federal and State Governments set a dangerous precedent in the misuse of the state criminal justice system to silence free expression. In recent times, the Federal Government has charged journalists, including Jones Abiri and Omoyele Sowore, with treason and terrorism for engaging in social activism and practising Journalism. This is unacceptable. As if taking a cue from the federal government, the governors of Cross River, Kaduna and Kano States have followed this trend by charging Agba Jalingo, Chidi Odinkalu and Nazir Ahmad respectively with obnoxious and strange offences of terrorism, cybercrime and criminal defamation.”
The coalition said the judiciary is fast becoming a tool in the hands of the government, insisting that Nigerians must be free to air their views.
“Furthermore, some sections of the Judiciary, as a consequence of its lack of independence, have become willing tools in the hands of state and federal governments by granting judicial approvals that stifle free speech,” the statement read.
“They do this through the demand of onerous bail conditions and unconventional trial procedures in criminal charges against journalists and other citizens. This also contributes, in no small measure, to the validation of human rights abuses by the State.
“The campaign for free press must be sustained by the media and civil society to ensure that public officials fully guarantee that journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, social media users and all media practitioners are allowed to carry out their work without any form of intimidation and persecution. Government must also take concrete measures to respect, protect and ensure the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
“Media practitioners must be proactive in the defence and protection of media freedom. We must engage in advocacy and public enlightenment while also holding regular public hearings into allegations of harassment and attacks on journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, social media users and all media practitioners’ right to freedom of expression.”
Members of the coalition are TheCable, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Civic Media Lab, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Daily Trust Newspaper
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), International Press Centre (IPC)
HEDA Resource Centre, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), OrderPaper
Paradigm Initiative (P.I) and Premium Times.
Others are Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Sahara Reporters, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).