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Whistleblowers coalition asks govt to drop charges against journalists

THE Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has accused the Nigerian government of “using oppressive laws to stifle media freedom in the country”.

The Coalition, in a statement released on Monday, asked the government to “immediately drop all charges against journalists being unfairly charged, including Mr Lukas Binniyat, a human right reporter; Ifreke Nseowo, publisher of TheMail Newspaper; and Mr Agba Jalingo, a journalist and publisher of Cross River Watch”.

According to the group, attacks on journalists had risen in recent times.

The Coalition noted that Binniyat has remained in custody months after he was arrested and charged with an cybercrime over an article he wrote.

Nseowo was charged with criminal libel over a report published by TheMail newspaper.

Also, Jalingo has been a victim of repeated harassment by the Cross River State Government and his latest arrest followed a siege on his house by the police in response to a petition by a sister-in-law of the state governor.

The petition accused Jalingo of defamation over a report published by the newspaper, Cross River Watch.

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The Coalition noted that the continued arrest and harassment of journalists by state actors is an indication of the unwillingness of the government to amend its laws in accordance with globally accepted norms and standards to recognise the role that journalists play in a democracy.

The Coalition also described the continued attacks on the media by government officials and agents, using repressive laws, as a flagrant violation of the order of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in its July 14, 2022 judgment in the consolidated suits over the indefinite suspension of access to Twitter in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government was urged to put an end to the incessant attacks on the media and journalists by implementing the judgment.

In the same vein, the Coalition condemned the “low level of tolerance by the government for views critical of its policies and actions under democratic rule”, noting that the result is that the media has continued to be subject to scare tactics and intimidation by the government.

While also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Binniyat from custody, the Coalition asked the government to pay compensation to a journalist, Chidi Ngadiuba, who was initially arrested illegally in lieu of Nseowo, and drop all charges against him.

Calling on government to stop harassing Jalingo, the Coalition stressed that anyone alleging that they have been defamed by stories written by journalists should seek redress in court using civil defamation procedures.

According to the Coalition, if the government, its institutions or officials felt that their reputations had been unfairly tarnished, they had the right to institute libel suits against the authors or publishers of such publications, using civil proceedings rather than filing criminal charges.


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Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: umustapha@icirnigeria.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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