ECOWAS Court Fixes Judgment for June 8 in Suit Over Constitutionality of Provision in Cybercrimes Act

ECOWAS Court of Justice PictureThe Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court) has fixed judgment for June 8, 2020 in a suit brought by the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative, a non-government organization registered in Nigeria, against the Government of Nigeria contesting the constitutionality of section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act.

The Court, presided over by Justice Dupe Atoki, reserved judgement until June 8 after hearing final addresses in the suit bought by Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Olumide Babalola, to enforce the fundamental human rights of the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative pursuant to Article 33 of the Rules of the ECOWAS Court; Articles 56 and 66 of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS; the Supplementary Protocol (A/SP.1/01/05) Relating to the Court; Articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In the suit filed on November 6, 2018, the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative is seeking:

• A declaration that the Nigerian Government’s actions in giving effect to the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 to detain and imprison the organization’s members and associates is in violation of the organization’s rights under Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

• A declaration that the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc) Act 2015 are in violation of Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights as well as international laws.

• A declaration that by the continued enforcement of section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015, the Nigerian Government is in breach of its obligation under the Revised ECOWAS Treaty and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

• An order compelling the Nigerian Government to expunge the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 from the law.

• A perpetual injunction restraining the Nigerian Government from further giving effect to the provisions of section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015.

• Any other consequential order or orders as the court may deem fit to grant in the circumstance.

Mr. Babalola recounted in the suit that in 2015, the Nigerian Government passed into law, a bill titled “Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015” which has 59 sections and contended that Section 24 of the law in clear terms limits freedom of expression on the internet or by use of any computer device and imposes fines ranging from N10 million to N25 million and prison terms ranging from three years to 10 years.

He contended that right from the passage of the law in 2015, the Nigerian Government has “religiously used the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 to intimidate” the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative, its members, associates and collaborators.

He provided particulars of the Nigerian Government’s “arbitrary use” of the Law, including the arrest on August 8, 2015 of Abubakar Sidiq Usman; the August 20, 2015 arrest of Musa BabareAzare in Bauchi State for criticizing his state Governor on Facebook and Twitter, after which he was taken to Abuja where he was detained for 36 hours; the August 25, 2015 arrest of Seun Oloketuyi, who was subsequently arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos on the charge of cyberstalking and was remanded in prison but later granted bail in the sum of N3 million; and the September 1, 2015 arrest of Mr. Chris Kehinde Nwandu, the President of Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria, for sharing information on Facebook, who was subsequently arraigned, denied bail three times and remanded in prison for 13 days.

Other examples he gave include the September 2015 arraignment of Emmanuel Ojo at a Magistrates court over a post he made on Facebook and his later arraigned at the Federal High Court; the October 2015 charge against Desmond Ike Chima, a blogger who was arraigned at a Magistrates court on an allegation of cyberstalking and spent six months in prison before he could meet his bail conditions; the arrest and remand in prison in 2017of Ms Kemi Olunloyo, a blogger, over her posts on social media; another 2017 case of AuduMaikori, who was arrested, detained and charged under the Cybercrime Act for his tweets in respect of issues of insecurity in the country; and the 2018 arrest of the administrator and members of a Whatsapp group over discussions in their group which the Nigerian Government found discomforting.

Mr. Olumide Babalola
Mr. Olumide Babalola

Mr. Babalola argued that these facts show the trajectory of the Nigerian Government’s use of the Cybercrime Act, which is to intimidate, harass, incarcerate and torture the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative’s members, associates and collaborators, thereby violating their freedom of expression and digital rights, especially on the internet.

He said the Nigerian Government’scontinued enforcement and application of section 24 of the Cybercrime Act was a continuous violation of the freedom of expression the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiatives guaranteed under the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights as well as the Nigerian Government’s obligations under the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.

Responding on behalf of the Nigerian Government, Mr. Emmanuel Omonuwa, Director of Civil Litigation at the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja, argued that the facts and circumstances stated by the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative were misleading and did not reflect the provisions of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, which was passed into Law to provide an effective regulatory and comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention, detection, prohibition and prosecution of cybercrime in Nigeria.

He said the Act also ensures the protection of critical national information infrastructure and promotes cybersecurity and the protection of electronic communications, among others.

Besides these functions, he argued, section 24 of the Cybercrime Act also seeks to expand and complement section 39(3)(a) of the 1999 Constitution, which provided for the exception to the general rule on freedom of expression.

Mr. Omonuwa claimed that the Nigerian Government has never intimidated, harassed, incarcerated or tortured any member of the press for exercising their freedom of expression within the law, including members, associates and collaborators of the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative.

He also denied that the Nigerian Government had ever violated the freedom of expression of any citizen of the country in the Internet or anywhere.

Mr. Omonuwa insisted that the Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative had not disclosed any actionable wrong done to it by the Nigerian Government that would warrant the court making the orders it is seeking and urged the court to dismiss the claim as lacking in merit and baseless in the light of both international and local laws.

ICFJ Knight Fellowship Opens, Calls for Proposals

Joyce Barnathan, President, ICFJ
Joyce Barnathan, President, ICFJ

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is seeking project proposals from news innovators for a one to two-year paid ICFJ Knight Fellowship.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is seeking project proposals from news innovators for a one to two-year paid ICFJ Knight Fellowship.

The Fellowship is open to creative, entrepreneurial journalists or technologists who have identified a problem that needs solving in their own country or region and have a great idea for how to fix it. The goal is to improve news and information in the public interest.

Interested applicants must have a passion for spreading the best ideas and practices across borders to people who are working to overcome the same challenges.

In this round of Fellowship applications, ICFJ is interested in hearing from news innovators with the best new ideas for combating misinformation/disinformation; engaging communities-reporting and telling stories in innovative ways and using mobile to reach new audiences.

Interested applicants should visit the link below and fill the form:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScxHuZphU81erNKclXCKo7HZc63DzRXjEjeogdDWDa9viy9bw/viewform

ICFJ may contact applicants whose proposals are successful to request additional information.

The name and photo associated with applicants’ Google accounts will be recorded when they upload files and submit the form.

GroundTruth Migration Reporting Fellowship Opens

Charles M. Sennott, CEO, GroundTruth Project
Charles M. Sennott, CEO, GroundTruth Project

The GroundTruth Project is now accepting entries for its reporting fellowship covering a critical moment for global migration and resettlement.

The fellowship is looking for story proposals that examine how the global migration crisis is unfolding at the local level and solutions-oriented stories that explore the different approaches and challenges to permanent resettlement of refugees, even as anti-refugee sentiment fuels public backlash.

The fellowship is open to videographers, photographers, writers, audio reporters and data journalists. It seeks proposals that integrate compelling human stories with attempted solutions relevant to those stories – whether they have been proven effective or not.

Experience covering migration or refugees is preferred, and journalists who have migrated or been refugees are particularly encouraged to apply. The fellowship is open to candidates from anywhere in the world and they may apply with a partner or partners. Each fellow will receive a total of $10,000, which will cover all travel expenses and a fee to the fellow.

GroundTruth plans to select a team of fellows working across key regions, telling narrative-driven, multimedia stories of migration shaped by climate change, economic and social instability, war and famine.

Applications close on March 2, 2020.

For more information and to apply, please visit: https://thegroundtruthproject.org/announcing-the-groundtruth-global-migration-refugees-and-resettlement-reporting-fellowship/

Climate Tracker Investigative Reporting Scholarship Opens

Anna Perez Catala, Co-Director, Climate Tracker
Anna Perez Catala, Co-Director, Climate Tracker

Climate Tracker, in partnership with Hivos, is seeking to train six amazing African journalists to cover the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Forum coming up in Rwanda from May 26 to 28, 2020 through its Investigative Reporting Scholarships.

The scholarship is looking for young journalists from across Africa who want to write incredible stories about the energy challenges in their home country.

The six fellows will receive a fully funded fellowship to travel to Kigali for the event; undergo exclusive training from leading energy experts and journalists; and an investigative story grant to cover energy issues back in their home country – all mentored by the Climate Tracker Team.

The Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SEforALL) will bring together the world’s most renowned energy experts and decision-makers in what is sure to be the premier global meeting on the unique energy challenges facing the continent.

For journalists, this will be a career-defining opportunity to meet, learn from and interview the world’s top entrepreneurs, community leaders, city leaders, policymakers, financiers and investors in the energy space.

Interested candidate must write and publish a story focusing on any of these themes: energy access, clean energy cooking, right to the energy transition, ensuring everyone benefits from sustainable energy access and sustainable energy and climate change.

 The article should be submitted by March 18, 2020, on Climate Tracker App:https://act.climatetracker.org/42c30aa4-1c7d-4793-ba0c-088958c135e4.

Climate Tracker will revise the articles submitted through the platform, give applicants feedback and tips, and select the best writers.

SEJ Reporting on the Environment Open, Accepting Entries

Meera Subramanian, President, SEJ
Meera Subramanian, President, SEJ

 The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) is now accepting entries for its 19th annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment to honour environmental journalism in 10 categories, bringing recognition to the most important stories on the planet.

SEJ will give prizes of $500 for first-place winners and $250 for second-place winners in all categories.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Award for the “best of the best” environmental reporting will award $10,000 to one entry selected from the first-place winners of SEJ’s Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The prize also includes travel, registration and hotel expenses (up to $2,500) for the winner, or representatives of the winning team, to attend SEJ’s annual conference and be recognized at the awards presentation ceremony in September 2020, during SEJ’s 30th Annual Conference in Boise, Idaho, US.

Winners will be announced in August, or as soon as possible after judges have completed their deliberations. All SEJ Awards first-place winners will be automatically entered into the Nina Mason Pulliam Award.

Applications close on April 1, 2020.

For more information, click: https://www.sej.org/initiatives/awards-fellowships/sej-annual-awards-reporting-environment.

 

IWMF Adelante Fellowship Opens for Applications

Linda Douglass, Co-Chair, IWMF
Linda Douglass, Co-Chair, IWMF

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is now accepting applications from women in media around the world for its Latin America reporting initiative (Adelante) that seeks to reduce the gender gap in the region by giving women journalists the opportunities and skills to amplify their voices and to advance in their careers.

The Initiative, built on the successes of the IWMF’s African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative, will provide international reporting trips, year-long fellowships for in-country journalists, and expanded security training in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Mexico-United States border. The IWMF AdelanteFellowship is made possible by a generous five-year, $5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

International reporting trips and local fellowship themes will include democracy and governance, immigration, agricultural development, economic opportunity, expanded technology access, women’s rights and development, education, and conservation. Over the five years, IWMF’s Adelante program will enable more than 270 journalists to reshape the media narrative about the region.

Additionally, the IWMF will award year-long fellowships to journalists in the countries of focus who are reporting on issues of importance in their own communities. These fellowships will help journalists – both men and women – develop skills and deepen their expertise in a particular subject area, with support from international journalists and local editors. The IWMF will offer 90 of these fellowships over five years.

The IWMF will provide Hostile Environments and Emergency First Aid Training (HEFAT) for hundreds of in-country journalists, both men and women across the region, helping them to stay safer in the field.

The fellowship is to affiliated or freelance women journalists with three (3) or more years of professional experience working in news media. Internships do not count toward professional experience.

It opens to women journalists of all nationalities and applicants should be fluent in English and/or Spanish. IWMF may require additional training, experience, and/or language skills for some international reporting trips. Please review the Call for Applications for further information.

For more details about Adelante reporting fellowships, and additional information on how to apply, please read IWMF answers to frequently asked questions and sign up for IWMF email updates. Announcements are also made on IWMF Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Applicants can also download or print its brochure about Adelante here.

MRA Executive Director Asks CSOs to Fully Engage OGP Process in Nigeria

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda
Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director,
Media Rights Agenda

The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, has called on civil society organizations operating in states in the north-central geo-political zone of Nigeria to fully engage the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process as the country begins the implementation of its second National Action Plan (NAP), which will run from 2020 to 2021.

Speaking in Abuja at a Townhall engagement on the OGP process for the North Central zone, organized by Open Alliance Nigeria, Mr. Ojo, who is the Chair of the Steering Committee of civil society network and a former Co-Chair of OGP Nigeria, told representatives of civil society organizations at the event that “The OGP is not a spectator sport and our involvement in the OGP process should not be for the purpose of being spectators. Please engage the process fully because you will share equally in any credit for its success and in any blame for its failure.  But let us be determined to succeed and be engaged accordingly.”

The Townhall engagement was sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), through a grant to BudgIT, which hosts the Secretariat of the Open Alliance.

Open Alliance is a group of civil society organisations engaged in the OGP process in Nigeria and seeking to promote good governance in Nigeria by ensuring that Nigeria derives maximum benefits from openness and transparency needed for inclusive development and efficient service delivery.

According to Mr. Ojo, Nigeria is entering a new phase in the OGP process following the unanimous approval by the National Steering Committee (NSC)of OGP Nigeria in September 2019 of the country’s second National Action Plan following a co-creation process as well as stakeholder and public consultations that spanned a period of about eight months, adding that the plan was thereafter endorsed on January 9, 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter to the OGP Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sanjay Pradhan.

Besides, he said, a new NSC was inaugurated on December 17, 2019 with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and himself, as co-chairs, handing over the leadership of OGP Nigeria to Prince Clem Agba, the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning and Dr. Tayo Aduloju, the Chief Operations Officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).

He described as “heartening” the significant participation by the various states in the OGP process, saying “At the moment, we have 14 states that have joined the OGP. These are:  Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, and Niger States,” adding that Zamfara State has already sent in its Letter of Intent and would likely be joining soon.

Saying that “we have had a successful transition and are embarking on a fresh start”, he urged CSOs in the North Central zone to prepare themselves to fully engage the OGP process and as a first step, to take time to read and familiarize themselves with the second National Action Plan so that their engagement can be effective.

Mr. Ojo explained that the broad objective of the town hall engagement is to assist civil society partners in the North Central zone to deepen their understanding of the OGP process, identify issues and challenges ahead of them, which they need to address, and build their capacity to engage with governments, citizens, development partners and other stakeholders in order to improve their participation in the governance reform process in Nigeria.

He said the Open Alliance was keen to ensure that civil society and other non-state actors participating in the OGP process in this zone build and maintain a strong relationship among themselves; and that they have a clear understanding of their roles in the OGP process.

Mr. Ojo stressed that the Open Alliance hopes to ensure that non-state actors understand that besides co-creating the National Action Plan and various State Action Plans, “they must also be involved in implementing the activities identified in the plans as well as in monitoring and evaluating the Action Plans.”

He said the Open Alliance was therefore constantly seeking ways of providing support to non-state actors to ensure that they have the capacity to effectively play their roles in the process and to take ownership of the initiative.

Boko Haram Islamist Sect Leader Warns Journalists, Threatens Others

Abubakar Shekau
Abubakar Shekau

The Boko Haram Islamist sect leader,Abubakar Shekau, has warned journalists to be careful about their reporting of the sect’s activities and threatened to “deal” with Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the Minister of Communications, for allegedly threatening to disrupt the activities of the sect by blocking their communication lines.

In a nine-minute video which AbubakarShekau said was made on, February 13, 2020 he warned: “The journalists on BBC, Radio Germany, Radio France International, Dandal Kura, national dailies, be very careful in all that you say about us. We are not dealing with you people; we are doing the work of Allah. Our trust is in Allah and not in human beings.”

Addressing Dr. Pantami in the video, the sect leader said:“You said you are going to block phone lines and other means of communication, to frustrate the activities of Boko Haram. But you must understand that we don’t depend on such to send out our messages,” adding “from today on, you would not have peace of mind because you have dared Allah, his prophet and the religion of Islam.’

Shekau called on Muslims not to spare the Minister.

FG Announces Approval of N7B to Support Nigeria’s Creative Industry

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning
Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has announced that the Federal Government has approved a facility of about N7 billion to support the creative industry in content production, content distribution, the acquisition of production equipment, digital transmission equipment and other areas of need.

Making the disclosure during the at the Greeners Business-to-Business Annual National Economic Dialogue 2020 held in Abuja, Mrs. Ahmed, represented by her Special Adviser on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Dr. Armstrong Takang, said the fund was approved to creative group of 35 firms in content production, content distribution, production equipment, digital transmission equipment among others.

Expatiating further, the Minister said the Federal Government created the N-Power Creative programme to train and develop 5,000 young creative talents in order to continue to build capacities among Nigerian youths. The strategy, according to her, is to put the creative industry on the global radar as exporters of world-class services and content. To achieve this, the beneficiaries were trained and certified in Animation, Graphic Design, Post-production and Script Writing and they all received computing devices that enabled them to master their skills during and after the training, according to the Minister.

According to her, the major areas which Nigeria had comparative advantage in the creative economy were Music, Film, Information Technology Industries and Fashion.

The Minister also disclosed that in 2016, the film industry contributed N239 billion to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and that Nigeria’s music industry grew by 9 per cent in 2016 to reach a value of 39 million dollars.

Mrs. Ahmed noted that the music industry was set to grow by 13.4 per cent by 2021, with an estimated worth of about 73 million dollars and that the gaming industry in Nigeria was also growing.

She stated that: “The gaming industry is benefitting from a widening customer base, mostly the large and youthful population. UNICON values Nigeria’s video game industry at 150 million dollars.

“It also estimates mobile gaming to surpass 147 million dollars by 2020”.

Dr. Mustapha Popoola, the convener of the dialogue, in his remarks said this year programme was the fifth economic dialogue which aimed at mentoring people to develop their businesses.

The theme of the dialogue was “Positioning Nigeria’s Creative Industry as Growth Engine of Africa Continental Trade Agreement (AFCTA)”.

IPI Launches New Protocol to Assist Newsrooms Tackle Online Harassment

Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of IPI
Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of IPI

The International Press Institute (IPI)on February 13, 2020 launched a new protocol, drawn from best practices collected from experts and leading news outlets in Europe, to help newsrooms tackle online harassment and reduce the professional and emotional toll it can take on journalists.

The protocol outlines a four-step framework that newsrooms can take to more effectively protect targeted journalists from the professional and emotional impact of online abuse.

The first step in the protocol is creating a culture of safety within the newsroom around online abuse and establishing clear channels to report it. It advises editors and managers to make clear that the news organization takes online harassment seriously. Importantly, it says all staff members and contributors should know whom to report abuse to and how to report it. It suggests that a point person (online safety coordinator) with the relevant knowledge and stature should be designated to receive reports and escalate them when necessary.

The second step in the protocol is assessing the risk that online abuse represents for the targeted journalist and the media outlet alike. This means assessing not only the physical harm or psychological damage to the targeted individual but also the risk of reputational damage to the journalist or media outlet through smear campaigns that seek to discredit independent journalism.

The third step is implementing support and response measures, which, according to the protocol, range from digital security support to legal support to emotional and psychological support, as well as online moderation to limit the impact of harassment. (IPI has developed expert video tutorials on coping with the emotional impact of online abuse as well as legal remedies.)

The fourth and final step in the protocol is tracking cases of online harassment to assess how effective the support and response measures have been. This tracking also allows newsrooms to spot new trends of online attacks and adapt their measures consequently.

The IPI Protocol is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all but offers a framework for newsrooms to tackle the issue of online abuse and provides a series of specific measures that newsrooms can adopt and adapt according to their particular situation.

Javier Luque, IPI Ontheline programme coordinator, said: “The guidelines provide media organizations with specific tools to create a culture of safety in newsrooms around online abuse, one that empowers journalists to report and share the abuse and smear campaigns that aim at silencing them and discrediting their work.”

The result of field research that examined best practices in 45 newsrooms across five countries in Europe – Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom – as well as further conversations with editors across Europe and experts in the fields of digital safety, trauma and law, protocol is part of IPI’s Newsrooms Online platform, which contains various resources for journalists and newsrooms to address online harassment.

To download and read the full resource, please click IPI Newsrooms Protocol to Address Online Harassment.

The International Press Institute (IPI) is the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom.