Nigerians Condemn Bill that Prescribes Death Penalty for Hate Speech

Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, Nigeria Senator President
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, Nigeria Senator President

Nigerians have come out to condemn a bill by the Senate that seeks death by hanging for any person convicted of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person, saying it violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

On November 12, 2019, a bill titled “The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc) Bill 2019,” which seeks for the establishment of a Commission to help investigate and prosecute offenders in Nigeria, among others things, passed through the First Reading in Nigeria’s upper legislative Chamber, the Senate.

The Bill defines an offender as “a person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.”

It says: “Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging,”

The bill sponsored by deputy Senate Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, says ethnic hatred means hatred against a group of persons from any ethnic group indigenous to Nigeria.

According to the Bill: “A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity for the purposes of this section where on ethnic grounds, he justifiably engages in a conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating that other person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for the person subjected to the harassment.

“Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in subsection (1) (a) or (b) of this section if, having regard to all circumstances, including in particular the perception of that person.

“A person who subjects another to harassment on the basis of ethnicity commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years, or to a fine of not less than N10m, or to both.

“Any person who knowingly utters words to incite feelings of contempt, hatred, hostility, violence or discrimination against any person, group or community on the basis of ethnicity or race, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than five years, or to a fine of not less than N10m or to both.

“A person victimises another if in any circumstance relevant for the purpose of this Act, the person does any act that is injurious to the wellbeing and esteem of another person by treating the person to less favourably than, in those circumstances.”

Reacting to the Bill, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said that the newly introduced bill could not be justified in a democracy and cautioned the Senate to “tread carefully” with the bill.

In a statement issued on November 12, 2019 by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, the NBA reminded the Senate that section 39(3) of the Constitution had made it mandatory that no law could abrogate the rights of Nigerians to exercise their right to freedom of speech.

The Association said: “Section 39(3) of the Constitution makes it mandatory that no law can abrogate the rights of Nigerians to exercise their right to freedom of speech except if such law can be reasonably justified in a democratic society,” and asked: “Can a Hate Bill be reasonably justified in a democratic society?”

It pointed out that with the nation already grappling with wanton arrest and prosecution of citizens from treasonable felony after expressing their opinions, there might not be any guarantee that the bill, if signed into law, would not be used to harass those exercising their right to free speech.

It noted that while the right to freedom of expression was not absolute, there were enough laws in Nigeria to tackle the excesses.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice-President, on his part said the bill was an abuse of the legislative process and that it would violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech.

Alhaji Abubakar who spoke through Mr. Paul Ibe, his Media Adviser, advised that it was prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests.

He sounded a note of caution to “those now toying with the idea of an anti-hate Speech Bill, with punishment for supposed hate speech to be death by hanging,” warning that the contemplation of such laws is in itself not just hate speech, but an abuse of the legislative process that will violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Speech.

Sonnie Ekwowusi, legal practitioner, writer, columnist and a visiting member of THISDAY Editorial Board, in his reaction said the Hate Speech Bill lacks merit and therefore urged the Senate to dismiss it.

He pointed out that the bill has pitched the people of Nigeria in a complex web of deeper hatred with the Buhari government and expressed worry that the phrase “hate speech” is subject to multiple arbitrary interpretations.

African Commission Extends Mandate of Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, 14 Other Special Mechanism by 6 Months

Lawrence Mute, Commissioner, ACHPR
Lawrence Mute, Commissioner, ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) has renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute, and the mandates of 14 other Special Mechanism of the Commission for another six months, following the expiration of their two-year tenure.

Meeting at its 65th Ordinary Session, which began in Banjul, The Gambia, on October 21, 2019 and ended on November 10, 2019, the Commission adopted Resolution 425, “Resolution on the Renewal of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Special Mechanisms’ Mandates – ACHPR/Res.425(LXV) 2019 by which it extended the mandates of the 15 special mechanisms for a 6-month period

In the resolution, the Commission recalled its earlier resolutions on the renewal of the Mandate of the various Special Mechanisms of the Commission adopted at its 61st Ordinary Session held from November 1 to 15, 2017, including the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa; the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa; the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa; the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa; and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.

Other special mechanisms, which also benefited from the extension are the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV; the Working Group on Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa; the Working Group on Communications; the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa; the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa; the Advisory Committee on Budgetary and Staff Matters; the Working Group on Specific Issues related to the Work of the Commission; the Committee on Resolutions; the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa; and the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa

The Commission noted that the mandates of these Special Mechanisms were for two years and that they have come to an end and that the election of new members of the Commission did not take place at the African Union Summit held from July 4 to 8, 2019 and had been postponed to the Summit to be held from February 6 to 10, 2020.

Reiterating the importance of the Special Mechanisms and the need for them to continue to carry out their mandates, the Commission decided to renew the mandate of the Commissioners and the Expert Members of the Commission’s various Special Mechanisms for a six months’ period, with effect from November 10, 2019.

PPDC, MRA Urge Federal Government to Ensure Full Implementation of Open Contracting in Nigeria

Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA's Freedom of Information Programme Manager
Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA’s Freedom of Information Programme Manager

The Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have called on the Federal Government to ensure the full implementation of Open Contracting in Nigeria such that procurements records and information are proactively disclosed by public institutions in line with the Open Contracting data Standards and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.

In a press briefing in Abuja on November 19, 2019, the organisations observed that although Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as the 70th member in 2016 and had the full implementation of open contracting as one of its commitments in its first National Action Plan (NAP), which lapsed in June this year, accessing basic contract information and records remained a challenge for members of the public, including civil society representatives and media practitioners.

According to Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager, “PPDC and MRA have been implementing the Nigerian component of a project on ‘Strengthening Disclosure and Citizen Participation to Improve Value for Money in Public Contracting in Africa’, managed by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in Kampala, Uganda, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, and we are worried at the level of impunity by public officials who continue to prevent members of the public from accessing procurement and contracting information.”

MRA’s FOI programme Manager, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon further argued that: “Although, as part of its obligation under the Public Procurement Act, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) developed the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) which is expected to feed the public with procurement information from the public institutions, showing records of contracts from planning to implementation stages, however, the Federal Government must as a matter of urgency ensure that the institutions proactively publish their procurement and contracting data on the platform to ensure that it justifies its essence.”

Ms Maxwell said PPDC and MRA have worked tirelessly to realise the goal of institutionalising Open Contracting in Nigeria.

According to her, although the organisations have constantly engaged the BPP and other stakeholders to discuss the status of NOCOPO and the level of compliance by public institutions, it is sad that many public institutions still fail to upload their procurement data on the platform, thereby blatantly disobeying with impunity, the July 2018 circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) mandating all public institutions to use the NOCOCPO and upload their procurement information and records on the platform.

Mr Sulaimon added that: “the organisations – PPDC and MRA – continue to train various stakeholders including civil society organisations, journalists and citizens; they also featured on various radio and television programmes to sensitize a wider scope of stakeholders to engage the NOCOPO. However, the platform must also have the information for people to engage.

“This is a wake-up call on the Federal Government to ensure that public institutions feed their information proactively and timeously into the platform. Circulars should be followed with appropriate sanctions to give it the deserved effect whenever disobeyed,” he added.

Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager
Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager

The organisations commended the on-going efforts by the BPP to sensitise relevant stakeholders in the public institutions and urged it to steadfastly implement its commitment to train all the public institutions to be able to use the NOCOPO effectively.

PPDC and MRA urged citizens, journalists and civil society organisations to join the efforts in holding the Federal Government to account on its commitment to fully implement Open Contracting in Nigeria in order to improve access to procurement records and information, strengthen citizen participation in government and ensure that government contracts deliver good value for taxpayers’ money.

Varsity Student Expelled for Alleged Defamation of Character Debunks Allegation

Ifemosu Micheal Adewale
Ifemosu Micheal Adewale

A student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) in Ogun State, Ifemosu Micheal Adewale, who was expelled by the university for alleged insubordination and defamation of character through an open letter he posted on his Facebook page to the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Kolawole Salako, has debunked the allegation.

Ifemosu who was studying Forestry and Wildlife at FUNAAB and in his second year at the institution, was expelled by the university authorities after the institution’s disciplinary committee found him guilty of the said offences.

Denying the allegations of insubordination and defamation of character, he said the letter was merely used as a cover-up adding that his expulsion was a witch-hunt because for his membership of a political party, the African Action Congress (AAC), Ogun state, of which he is the general secretary. Incarcerated human rights activist and publisher of the online news portal, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, was the presidential candidate of the AAC.

Ifemosu disclosed while being interviewed by the School Disciplinary Committee, one of the members of the committee informed him he had made research on him and knows about his alliance with Omoyele Sowore.

He said he wrote about the school’s transportation system and the indiscriminate arrest of students of the institution by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) within the school premises.

Expatiating further, the student said the FUNAAB Bureau of Transportation (FUNAABOT) performed below expectations as there were inadequate buses to convey almost 15,000 students of the institution.

He said, in his article, he demanded an explanation from the school management, the reasons for the unavailability of buses to convey the students to school, adding he did not query how the FUNAABOT spent the money on exotic cars as alleged by the institution.

Ifemosu said further that the disciplinary committee asked him if he knew that the Vice Chancellor was the Buhari of FUNAAB and when he asked for an explanation of the question, he was told that the Vice-Chancellor represents President, Muhammadu Buhari in the University and since his affiliation is against him then he is against the Vice-Chancellor of the school.

The institution’s authority however denied that he was being witch-hunted for his political affiliation adding, students are free, that they are adults and that they can affiliate with any political party of their choice and it is none of the FUNAAB’s business.

Bill to Regulate Social Media Passes First Reading in Senate

Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, Nigeria Senator President
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, Nigeria Senator President

Nigeria’s upper legislative chambers, the Senate, on November 5, 2019 passed, for the First Reading, a bill titled, “‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 (SB 132)” which, among other things, prescribes a three-year jail term for anyone involved in what it calls the abuse of social media.

The Bill, sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East), also proposes a fine of N10 million (about US$ 27,558) for media houses prosecuted and found guilty of peddling falsehood or misleading the public.

Speaking to the media on the Bill, Senator Musa who proposed the bill, said: “If anyone is caught with this kind of situation, you cough out between N150,000 to a maximum imprisonment of three years or both. And if it is a corporate organisation that refused to block that false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by authorities not to disseminate that information for public interest and they still go ahead to do it, refusing to do that blockage will be penalised between N5 million to N10 million for those organisations.”

This Bill is coming on the heels of the disclosure by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the Federal Government  has put machinery in motion to sanitise social media to prevent it from setting the nation on fire.

Speaking to the media, the Minister said: “I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control,” adding, “No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.”

On December 2, 2015 the Senate passed, for a Second Reading, a similar bill which sought to penalize what it termed ‘frivolous petitions’ and peddling of falsehood on social media but eventually threw it out as a result of public outcry against the Bill.

Titled “The Frivolous Petition Prohibition and Other Matters Bill,” it made it mandatory for Nigerians writing petitions against public officers or institutions to accompany their petitions with an affidavit depose to a High Court of a state or the Federal High Court confirming the content to be true and correct.

It sought to impose harsh penalties for tweets, text messages, or WhatsApp chats that convey false statements about a wide range of actors – from “a group of persons” to an “institution of government.” Had it been passed into law, Nigerians who violate these provisions could be fined upon conviction, of up to N2,000,000 (about US$10,000 then) or spend up to two years in jail.

Following the Second Reading in the Senate up to the Public Hearing, there was a general outcry against the bill by a wide section of Nigerians. The widespread opposition led to its eventual withdrawal.

AFEX Condemns Killing of Congolese Journalist, Calls for Prosecution of Perpetrators

Papy Mahamba Mumbere
Papy Mahamba Mumbere

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) on November 6, 2019 condemned the brutal murder on November 2, 2019 of Congolese journalist, Papy Mahamba Mumbere, by unidentified gunmen at his residence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The assailants, armed with machetes and knives, broke into Papy’s residence shortly after he hosted an Ebola awareness programme on radio, threatened and then stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and belly until he died, then they dragged his lifeless body around the house before setting the entire house on fire. His wife, who attempted to come to rescue him, was also badly wounded with a machete.

Papy’s killing brings to 15, the number of Congolese media professionals murdered in the past two decades.

The Director of Lwenba Community Radio Station where he worked said the journalist had been engaged in a campaign to raise awareness about the Ebola epidemic that has claimed many people. He said Papy’s interventions in the issue through the media were not well received by part of the local population and armed groups who are increasingly hostile to the operations to contain the epidemic.

AFEX Coordinator, Felicia Anthonio, expressed the sympathies of members of the AFEX Network to the family and colleagues of the late journalist saying: “It is tragically ironic that Papy Mahamba Mumbere was murdered on November 2, a Day set aside by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. His killing must not be swept under the carpet. The cruel manner in which the journalist was murdered is an affront to efforts made by stakeholders across the continent and beyond to ensure the safety of journalists and bring an end to impunity for crimes against journalists.”

Felicia called on the Congolese Government to make serious efforts to protect journalists in the country and ensure that those who seek to harm journalists, whether in or out of government, should be brought to justice.

“The Government of the DRC must ensure accountability for the killing of the journalists in general and this latest incident cannot be treated as just any other case that has been given no attention. We demand justice for Mumbere,” the AFEX Coordinator said.

AFEX has denounced repeated attacks against the media in the country, saying acts of barbarism against the media fraternity in DRC and in other parts of the continent at large were no longer tolerable.

She said: “We urge the police and other relevant law enforcement and security agencies in the DRC to make a public commitment to fully, diligently and transparently investigate the killing of the journalist and to bring the culprits to justice.”

Felicia also called on the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information in Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute, and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Prof. David Kaye, to put pressure on the Congolese government to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the attack.

She appealed to the media organisations and human rights groups across the continent to demand justice for the killing of the journalist, saying his only crime appeared to be the fact that he was diligently carrying out his professional responsibilities as a journalist to enlighten and inform the citizens of his country about a matter of serious public concern and interest.

PPDC, MRA Urge Federal Government to Ensure Full Implementation of Open Contracting in Nigeria

Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager
Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager

ABUJA, Tuesday, 19 November 2019: The Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today called on the Federal Government to ensure the full implementation of Open Contracting in Nigeria such that procurements records and information are proactively disclosed by public institutions in line with the Open Contracting data Standards and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.

In a press briefing in Abuja, the organisations observed that although Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as the 70th member in 2016 and had the full implementation of open contracting as one of its commitments in its first National Action Plan (NAP), which lapsed in June this year, accessing basic contract information and records remained a challenge for members of the public, including civil society representatives and media practitioners.

According to Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager, “PPDC and MRA have been implementing the Nigerian component of a project on ‘Strengthening Disclosure and Citizen Participation to Improve Value for Money in Public Contracting in Africa’, managed by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in Kampala, Uganda, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, and we are worried at the level of impunity by public officials who continue to prevent members of the public from accessing procurement and contracting information.”

MRA’s FOI programme Manager, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon further argued that:“Although, as part of its obligation under the Public Procurement Act, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) developed the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) which is expected to feed the public with procurement information from the public institutions, showing records of contracts from planning to implementation stages, however, the Federal Government must as a matter of urgency ensure that the institutions proactively publish their procurement and contracting data on the platform to ensure that it justifies its essence.”

Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA's Freedom of Information Programme Manager
Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA’s Freedom of Information Programme Manager

Ms Maxwell said PPDC and MRA have worked tirelessly to realise the goal of institutionalising Open Contracting in Nigeria.

According to her, although the organisations have constantly engaged the BPP and other stakeholders to discuss the status of NOCOPO and the level of compliance by public institutions, it is sad that many public institutions still fail to upload their procurement data on the platform, thereby blatantly disobeying with impunity, the July 2018 circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) mandating all public institutions to use the NOCOCPO and upload their procurement information and records on the platform.

Mr Sulaimon added that: “the organisations – PPDC and MRA – continue to train various stakeholders including civil society organisations, journalists and citizens; they also featured on various radio and television programmes to sensitize a wider scope of stakeholders to engage the NOCOPO. However, the platform must also have the information for people to engage.

“This is a wake-up call on the Federal Government to ensure that public institutions feed their information proactively and timeously into the platform. Circulars should be followed with appropriate sanctions to give it the deserved effect whenever disobeyed,” he added.

The organisations commended the on-going efforts by the BPP to sensitise relevant stakeholders in the public institutions and urged it to steadfastly implement its commitment to train all the public institutions to be able to use the NOCOPO effectively.

PPDC and MRA urged citizens, journalists and civil society organisations to join the efforts in holding the Federal Government to account on its commitment to fully implement Open Contracting in Nigeria in order to improve access to procurement records and information, strengthen citizen participation in government and ensure that government contracts deliver good value for taxpayers’ money.

 For further information, please contact:

Mbanan Mku,

Communications Lead,

Public and Private Development Centre,

Mbanan@procurementmonitor.org 

 

Radio Nigeria Staff, One Other Assassinated by Gunmen in Benue 

Mohammed Adamu, Police IG
Mohammed Adamu, Police IG

On November 2, 2019, the day the world commemorated the occasion of the 2019 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, Mr Patrick Kumbul, Head of ICTat Radio Nigeria Harvest FM in Makurdi, and another individual, Shongo Wuester, were shot dead by unknown gunmen along Amokachi Lane, in Makurdi, Benue State.

According to Mr Akange Nyagba, General Manager of the station, who was within the vicinity of the crime, the gunmen who dressed like Special Anti-Robbery Police operatives were about six in number and were on motorcycles.

Akange said: “They actually came for Engineer. After killing him they wanted to go, so one of his neighbours wanted to know the identity of any of them, but they turned back and killed him too”.

 The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Sewuese Anene, confirmed the incident saying the victims were killed by unknown gunmen on Saturday night and that the Police have commenced full investigation into matter.

CWPPF Condemns Alarming Trend of Media Censorship in Nigeria as it Commemorates International Day to End Impunity

President Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

On the occasion of the 2019 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) condemned the alarming trend of media censorship by state authorities in Nigeria.

In a statement issued on November 2, 2019, the group observed that public officers and influential individuals are increasingly intolerant of critical reporting and fair comments by journalists. The attackers, it said, resort to the use of instruments of state criminal justice system to suppress freedom of expression and free press.

CWPPF said from January 2019 till date, it recorded 71 cases of attacks on the media, including arrests, intimidation, detention and killings. The coalition said it totally condemns this abuse of power by state actors and security agencies.

It cited Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution and several international instruments acceded to by Nigeria which guarantee the right to press freedom for the media to exercise their statutory duties.

CWPPF pointed out that the right of citizens to freedom of expression, to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium, is guaranteed by Articles 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

According to the group, “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.”

CWPPF said furthermore that 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.  It disclosed that they do this through the demand for onerous bail conditions and unconventional trial procedures in criminal charges against journalists and other citizens, saying this also contributes, in no small measure, to the validation of human rights abuses by the State.

The group called on Nigeria to take steps to amend or repeal oppressive provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015, particularly Sections 24 and 25, and other laws, which violate international and regional treaties on human rights to which Nigeria is a state party as well as Section 1(3) and 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

It warned that: “The government’s declared intention to regulate citizens’ use and access to social media and the civic space must not be in conflict with or constitute a breach of existing laws pertaining freedom of speech and association.”

The group called on media stakeholders and the civil society to continue to harp on the inviolability of Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, which accords the media the role of holding government accountable to the people.

It said 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, it added, must also take concrete measures to respect, protect and ensure the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.

It encouraged media practitioners to be proactive in the defence and protection of media freedom saying they 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.

The group called on the African Union, regional and sub-regional bodies and the international community to prevail on state authorities in Nigeria to abide by their obligation to respect media freedom, citizen’s freedom of expression and enable the growth of a free and vibrant press in Nigeria.

Freedom of expression, it pointed out, is critical to the sustenance of democracy and the advancement of an orderly, informed and progressive society, adding it is prepared to defend the interest of citizens and organisations whose rights are violated in the exercise of freedom of expression.

The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) is a coalition of Nigerian news organisations and civil society organisations committed to advocacy for press freedom.

UNESCO Calls for Nominations for 2020 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

Guillermo Cano Isaza, assassinated Colombian journalist
Guillermo Cano Isaza, Assassinated Colombian journalist

The United Nations Educational,  Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is calling for nominations for the 2020 edition of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. UNESCO is inviting governments of member states, in consultation with their national commissions, as well as international and regional professional non-governmental organizations active in the field of press freedom to nominate worthy candidates for 2020 prize.

Awarded annually, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (May), the Prize is marked by a ceremony and the winner is presented with the sum of US$25,000. The Prize is scheduled to be awarded on April 23 for the 2020 edition.

Eligible candidates are individuals, organizations or institutions who have made significant contributions to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

Prizes may be conferred upon individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations representing all types of media including digital media. However, self-nominations are not allowed.

All applications must be submitted in English or French through the specified application form. The preferred mode of submission is electronically, but if this is not possible postal applications of nominations are also acceptable.

The Prize which was established in honour of Guillermo Cano, a Colombian journalist who died in the exercise of his profession, and celebrates other individuals or organisations that have made significant impact to the defence and/ or promotion of press freedom all over the world.

More information about the Prize and how to nominate a candidate are available at: https://en.unesco.org/prizes/guillermo-cano.