Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Ignite the mind.


#DontPoliceMySpeech: Coalition of Journalists Holds Campaign, Demands Justice and Freedom For Nigerian Journalists

The #DontPoliceMySpeech protest at the Federal Ministry of Justice saw a remarkable turnout! We were thrilled to see a large number of young journalists, under 30, passionately advocating for press freedom. The significant representation of women, outnumbering men, was an encouraging sign of a brighter future for journalism an women’s advocacy within the media landscape. As we fight for the rights of journalists and citizens alike, it’s heartening to see the next generation of journalists stepping up to carry the baton. Together, we’ll ensure the power of the pen and voice never fades. #All4One&One4All” – ED, LightRay! Media.


By Collins Odigie Ojiehanor

In a resounding call for justice and the protection of fundamental rights, a coalition of journalists, civic defenders, and activists launched the #DontPoliceMySpeech campaign in Abuja, Nigeria. The campaign, marked by a solidarity march to the Federal Ministry of Justice, aims to end the arrest and abuse of journalists and citizens exercising their right to free speech.

“The abuse of the Cybercrime Law as a tool to censor, gag, control, deny, abuse, and harass citizens and journalists alike is unconscionable. More so when journalists are risking their lives in the line of duty to inform and protect both citizens and those in power or leadership,” stated “Lady E” Ejiro Umukoro, Executive Director of LightRay! Media. She emphasized that Nigeria’s perception in democracy is crucial for attracting investments, protecting its citizens, and inspiring patriotism. Gagging the press and citizens sends the wrong signal.

#DONTPOLICEMYSPEECH Peaceful Protest by Journalists in Abuja at the Federal Ministry of Justice. July 10th, 2024. PC: LightRay! Media.

Umukoro, alongside Shirley Ewang, Lead Advocate at Gatefield, and Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, Digital Media Legal Expert, champion the rights of this campaign in coalition with various media organizations and CSOs including Accountability Lab Nigeria, Dataphyte Foundation, Humangle Media, Tap Initiative, DigiCivic Initiative, Follow Taxes, More Branches, Femme Mag, Paradigm Initiative, Invictus Africa, Marie Claire Nigeria, and Document Women.

During Nigeria’s 2023 presidential and federal elections, at least 14 journalists and media workers faced detention, harassment, or attacks while covering the events. Among them was Haruna Mohammed Salisu, the owner of the private news website WikkiTimes, who was held in prison for several days. The criminalization of journalism in Nigeria is an illegality that cannot be allowed to persist.

ARBITRARY DETENTION, EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE, HARRASMENT, INTIMIDATION BY SECURITY AGENTS AND STATE ACTORS

Between 2023 and 2024, no less than 25 journalists, including a woman, have been arbitrarily arrested, harassed, and detained without due process. For instance, in 2024, Gabriel Idibia, a correspondent and freelancer with the privately owned Daily Times and Daybreak Nigeria news sites, was detained while taking photos of police officers guiding a large group of cattle across a road in Kaduna. Similarly, Daniel Ojukwu, a reporter at the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, was also arrested and detained. The constant intimidation and harassment, including the police declaration of Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Fisayo Soyombo, as ‘a wanted person,’ further highlight the urgency of this campaign.

The detention of the Editor Segun Olatunji of FirstNews, and the publisher and reporter of International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan and Nurudeen Akewushola, along with the regrettable threat by the Federal Government to sue Daily Trust Newspaper for raising moral issues inherent in the signed Samoan Agreement, has sparked outrage among clerics, rights activists, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria.

The detention and assault on Kasarahchi Aniagolu, a female reporter with The Whistle Newspaper by police officers while she was reporting on a in Abuja, remains fresh in our minds.

Regular citizens are not spared either. The excessive use of political might led to the lack of due process and the illegal arrest and prosecution of Ms. Okoli for reviewing a tomato as part of consumerism practices. These cases send a disturbing message that no one is safe for expressing their opinions in a country where democracy is meant to empower the people for the public good, the suppression of free speech and press freedom is a stark reality.

Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga Digital Media Legal Expert called attention to the expected judgment today from the ECOWAS court regarding the #ENDSARSgate of 2020.

Shirley Ewang, Lead Advocate at Gatefield, emphasized that the Cybercrimes Act, originally designed to combat online criminal activity, has been hijacked as a tool to silence dissenting voices. Despite recent amendments, Section 24 of the Act continues to be misused by Nigerian security agencies, violating the country’s constitution and undermining citizens’ rights.

Ejiro “Lady E” Umukoro, Executive Director LightRay! Media and Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga Digital Media Legal Expert and Lead Advocate of Gatefield at the #DONTPOLICEMYSPEECH Protest, Federal Ministry of Justice. July 10th, 2024. PC: LightRay! Media.

These incidents highlight the daunting challenges faced by journalists in Nigeria and underscore the importance of safeguarding press freedom, journalists’ rights, and citizens’ right to expression, as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. The #DontPoliceMySpeech campaign demands:

  • An end to police brutality and the misuse of power against journalists and citizens
  • Accountability for those responsible for intimidating and attacking journalists
  • The right to expression without fear of reprisals for all Nigerians

The turnout at the protest was well represented by staff of News Agency of Nigeria, Racheal Abujah, Senior Health Correspondent (NAN) and other staff from legacy, online and new media.

Led by Gatefield and a coalition of over 200 activists, journalists, and civil society organizations, the #DontPoliceMySpeech campaign seeks to raise awareness about the misuse of laws and promote government accountability. Nigerians deserve a democracy where press freedom thrives, and citizens can speak their truth without fear. #DontPoliceMySpeech stands for justice, accountability, and the protection of fundamental rights.

FILE: #EndSARS protesters on the Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos. October 2020.

EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE #ENDSARS: ECOWAS RULES AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVT OF NIGERIA

In a remarkable twist, shortly after the #DONTPOLICEMYSPEECH protest, The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, on Wednesday, found the Federal Government of Nigeria guilty of violating the fundamental human rights of youths that participated in the October 2020, EndSARS protest.

The court ruled on Wednesday that the Nigerian government’s actions, particularly its disproportionate use of force at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, breached several international human rights standards, including articles 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African charter on human and peoples’ rights.

The court mandates the Nigerian government to pay N2 million in compensation to each victim named in the suit.

The applicants, Obianuju Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi, and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka alleged that these violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20 and 21, 2020.

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