Landmark ECOWAS Court Decision Empowers Nigerian Journalists for Unrestricted Freedom of Expression

 

Landmark ECOWAS Court Decision Empowers Nigerian Journalists for Unrestricted Freedom of Expression

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has directed the Nigerian government to amend specific sections of the 1992 Nigerian Press Council Act.


Aligning them with global standards that champion free, diverse, and professional journalism.


This historic decision follows a lawsuit filed by two Nigerian journalists who alleged the government's infringement.


Upon their freedom of expression rights through stringent criteria for practicing journalism.


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The journalists, represented by lawyers Isaac Olamikan and Edoghogho Ugberease, argued that the Nigerian Press Council Act.


Discriminated against online and citizen journalists, failing to acknowledge the importance of public interest media.


The ECOWAS Court, in a judgment delivered by Hon Justice Dupe Atoki, declared that Sections 19(1)(a), 27, and 37 of the Act violated international human rights principles.


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Specifically Article 9(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), as well as Article 8(1) and 10(2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.


The contested sections required journalists to be at least 18 years old, accredited by the NPC.


And have 25 years of age with working experience in a reputable media organization or news agency, registered with the Nigeria Union of Journalists.


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The court found that these criteria unfairly marginalized online and citizen journalists, infringing upon their right to freedom of expression.


However, not all claims put forth by the journalists were substantiated. The Court dismissed allegations of unlawful arrest and detention.


The journalists had sought one million USD in damages, a request that the Court did not grant.


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This legal battle, marked by the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/31/21, commenced on June 14, 2021.


As a testament to the commitment of Mr. Isaac Olamikan and Mrs. Edoghogho Ugberease to promote freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information through their online and citizen journalism practices.


This landmark decision signifies a pivotal moment in the fight for unrestricted journalism in Nigeria.


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Reinforcing the importance of upholding international human rights standards.


As the government is now tasked with amending the identified sections of the Nigerian Press Council Act.


Tis ruling sets a precedent for a more inclusive and supportive environment for journalists.


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Fostering a culture that values the diverse voices contributing to the public discourse.


As we witness this significant stride towards press freedom.


It prompts reflection on the broader implications for journalism across the African continent and the potential ripple effect on global press practices.


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