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ECOWAS Court Gives Judgment on Press Council Inconsistency with Human Rights Law

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ECOWAS Court Gives Judgment on Press Council Inconsistency with Human Rights Law

By: Michael Mike

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has delivered its judgment in a case brought by two Nigerian journalists alleging the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992 was discriminatory and violated their right to freedom of expression.

In its judgment delivered by Hon Justice Dupe Atoki, Judge Rapporteur, the Court declared that Sections 19 (1)(a), 27 and 37 of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act failed to recognize public interest media including rights of online and citizen journalists thereby violating Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and Article 8 (1) and 10 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

The Court therefore ordered the government of Nigeria to amend these contested Sections to align with international practices that promote free, pluralistic and professional journalism. It however dismissed other claims which were not substantiated.

The case with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/31/21 was filed on 14 June 2021 by lawyers representing the Applicants – Mr Isaac Olamikan and Mrs Edoghogho Ugberease – online and citizen journalists who practise journalism for the promotion of freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information.

In the application, they claimed that Sections 19(1)a, 27 and 37 of the Nigeria Press Council Act of 1992 requiring journalists to be at least 18 years and accredited by the NPC, 25 years to be an editor with working experience in reputable media organization or news agency and registered with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, discriminated against them.

The Applicants’ lawyers led by Mr President Aigbokhan argued that these Sections failed to recognise public interest media such as the rights of online and citizen journalists and were therefore discriminatory and violated their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Articles 2 and 9(1) of the ACHPR, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), Articles 2, 10 and 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 8 (1) and 10 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa; and breached the State’s obligation under the ECOWAS Treaty among other cited texts.

“For example, Section 37 of the Press Council Act, puts the minimum age to practice journalism as 18 years of age, while to be qualified as an editor, requires a minimum of 25 years of age. Sections 19(a) and 27 of the Act imposes educational qualifications and compulsory courses of attendance and training before a person can be recognized and allowed to practice as a journalist,” the judgment stated.

They also submitted that they were arrested separately at different locations while investigating and gathering information for their work, and that their arrest and detention were unlawful and violated their rights.

The Applicants asked the Court to order the Respondent to amend the contested Sections of the NPC Act to align with international practice and pay 1,000,000 (one million) USD as damages.

On their part, the Respondent’s lawyers Mrs Maimuna Lami Shiru and Mrs B.J. Oladipo told the Court that ‘journalism is a sensitive profession requiring mastery as well as regulation to prevent negative effect, adding that rights to information and freedom of expression are not absolute.’

The Respondent denied arresting and detaining the Applicants unlawfully, stating that the first Applicant was arrested because his action had national security implications while the second Applicant operated illegally.

They added that, in the same way as other professional bodies, there were criteria for registration and membership as journalists, and urged the Court to dismiss the case describing it as frivolous, baseless and an abuse of court process.
In its analysis, the Court determined if the matter was within its mandate, if it was admissible and if the Sections of the NPC Act were discriminatory and violated the right to freedom of expression of the Applicants. Relying on its rules of procedure and jurisprudence, the Court held the matter was within its jurisdiction and the case was admissible.

On the alleged violation of Article 2 of ACHPR the Court noted that the Applicants did not substantiate on how they were treated differently in an identical or similar situation. Consequently, it held that their rights to freedom from discrimination under Article 2 of ACHPR has not been violated.

While on the alleged violation of Article 9 (freedom of expression), the Court noted that Section 19(1) and Section 27 of the Press Act imposing minimum educational requirement, age limit and registration, were restrictive and interfered with the right to freedom of expression, and therefore violated Article 9 (2).

In reaching its decision, the Court also noted the impact of technology in the evolving media space with the advent of citizen journalists, influencers and content creators who share news, commentary, and analysis on social issues. Though not qualified in traditional sense, they contributed to shaping public opinion.

It drew inspiration from young activists notably Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg who in their teens integrated online media in their advocacy and have attained world recognition through a free and unrestricted opportunity to gather information and express opinion.

Regarding the Applicants’ claim of unlawful arrest and detention, the Court noted that the Applicants did not prove their arrest was unlawful. Consequently, the Court dismissed their claims of unlawful arrest and request for compensation.

Both parties were ordered to bear their costs of litigation.

Also on the bench were Hon Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding) and Sengu M. Koroma (Member).

ECOWAS Court Gives Judgment on Press Council Inconsistency with Human Rights Law

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Yobe: Emir of Fika charges Journalists on fair reportage

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Yobe: Emir of Fika charges Journalists on fair reportage

By: Yahaya Wakili

His Royal Highness, the Emir of Fika. Chairman Yobe State Council of Chiefs and the National Convener of the Council of the Traditional Leaders of Africa, Alhaji Dr Muhammadu Ibn Abali Muhammad Idrissa, CFR, have implored the journalists in the state to be fair and just in all their reporting.

His Royal Highness disclosed this in a unique receipt organized by the correspondent chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Yobe State, at his palace in Potiskum.

“We must command journalists in Yobe State and in Nigeria in general, and you are a very important part of this society, and you have been playing your role, which sometimes is very ropey and sometimes is not easy, because you have to be critical of government activities.” he said.

“We are happy with you and your remarkable achievements in Yobe State, in particular, about the reporting of government activities on what is happening.

He charged the journalists to redouble their efforts and also said the truth: be equitable, be fair, so that is not always to be praising the government. When you are supposed to say the truth, say the truth, and he also urged them to be very fair and make remarkable achievements in Yobe State in your activities.

His royal father also implores the journalists to be fair and just in all their reporting so that when the government is wrongly saying it, when they are rightly saying it, I think you have been doing that.

“I think you have been doing well. We need to tell the government that we are living on a time bomb, and if it is exploited, we are all going to suffer. We have to appreciate the youth. 65% of the time, wherever you go, you see youth who are on drugs out of frustration.

Speaking earlier, the chairman of the correspondent’s chapel, Alhaji Ahmed I. Abba, ensured His Royal Highness that we are here to serve this state, and we sacrifice all we have for the state and for the palace.

“This palace has been home for us; we really appreciate your royal highness and the members of the palace; this is a unique reception we have never had anywhere; we will forever live to remember the reception we always have in this palace.” The chairman added.

He also assures his royal father that when he needs our support, we are ready to be available for your royal highness. He also sympathizes with the palace with the recent accident that just happened in Fika, as well as the recent accident that just happened in the same schools within the emirate.

Yobe: Emir of Fika charges Journalists on fair reportage

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Nigeria Commiserates with Tanzania Over the Pssing of Former President Ali Hassan Nwinyi

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Nigeria Commiserates with Tanzania Over the Pssing of Former President Ali Hassan Nwinyi

By: Michael Mike

The Federal Government of Nigeria has commiserated with the Government and People of the United Republic of Tanzania over the passing of former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

The former President died on Thursday. He would be remembered as
an African Elder Statesman, who was an astute and influential politician that contributed significantly to laying the foundation for Tanzania’s economic development.

A statement signed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Francisca Omayuli on Friday said: “Nigeria stands with Tanzania in this period of grief. May the soul of the departed former President rest in peace and may God grant the bereaved family, the Government and the good people of the United Republic of Tanzania the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”

Nigeria Commiserates with Tanzania Over the Pssing of Former President Ali Hassan Nwinyi

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Youth are vital to sustainable peace, better Nigeria-Prof Usman to Youths

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Youth are vital to sustainable peace, better Nigeria-Prof Usman to Youths

By: Ladi Dapson

The Borno state government has charged the youths to take the lead in peace building,conflicts management and learn how to be tolerant in respective of faiths and ethicity coloration.

The State Commissioner for Information and Internal Security, Prof Usman Tar made this known during an inaugurating of 100 awardees of yoths as Peace Advocates in Borno State held in Maiduguri.

He urged the youths to take the advantages of their population in Nigeria just like the way China took the advantage of their population and bring some innovation to boast their economy.

“Today we inaugurating the young peace Ambassadors that we will be going into the society tricking down the capacity of peace building and tolerance that we have thought them.

“The outcome of this excise is that we now have critical young mind that will serve as ambassadors of peace go out and target specific community as well as teach the art of peace, conflict resolution, conflict management, peace building, and diplomacy.

“So that the society will be more tolerant, more engaging and society will learn to leave side by side with people of all faiths and tendency,”he said.

Earlier, the Founder of Peace Ambassadors Center for Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment, Amb. Ahmed Shehu said youths are critical stakeholders in peace processes, urging the people in the community to identify the youths in their community and give them the necessary support.

“As a civil society, we thought we have to play our role towards ensuring we have a stable society.

“What we observed in these efforts is that a critical element is missing. This is the youth groups and we thought why can’t we come up with an initiative where we build the capacity of the youth and make them youth advocates and unleash them to the society for peacebuilding.

“We carefully selected young people and voices across all sectors, from the media, CSOs and academia. Our dream is you would go back to the community and change the narratives,”Ahmed said.

He was awarded for a responsible media practice and promoting of a culture of peace.

One of recipients of the Peace Advocate Award and Social Media Influencer, Aliyu Mohammed Tong applauded the Peace Ambassadors Center for Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment and partners for finding them worthy of this award after a series of trainings and community engagements.

“As we accepted the award we equally took it as a challenge to positively make an impact in our various communities by stepping down the knowledge we gained on reintegration and sustainable peace.”Aliyu thanked.

Some of the recipients include Mohammed Usman, General Manager of Al-Ansar Radio; Usaman Mohammed, Report with Yerwa Express News; Umaru Kirawa, Correspondent of Newscentral Africa, Zainab Yetunde Adam, Reporter with NTA amongst.

The project was funded by the British Council in partnership with the Borno State Ministry for information and Internal Security and implemented by Peace Ambassadors Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment.

Youth are vital to sustainable peace, better Nigeria-Prof Usman to Youths

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