This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news
SERAP, the Socio-economic rights and accountability project, is taking the Federal and State governments of Nigeria to court over alleged attacks on bloggers and journalists. The group, in suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/09/19 filed by its lawyer, Femi Falana SAN, at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court, argued that the government is fond of trampling on the rights of members of the media.
According to a statement issued on Sunday, March 3, by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group is suing the government for what it describes as “the frequent and repressive application of the Cybercrime Act to harass, intimidate, arbitrarily arrest, detain, and unfairly prosecute anyone found publishing views or facts perceived to be critical of the government at the federal and state levels and government officials.”
What is the group asking for?
More than anything else, the group wants members of the press to be free to express their criticisms of elected officials without fear of being arrested. So, what are their demands?
First, an order directing the Federal and State governments to provide compensation and effective remedies to human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists that have been harassed and arrested unlawfully.
SERAP also wants a declaration that the Cybercrime Act of 2015 is inconsistent with international human rights standards as it infringes on the right of the press to perform their roles. Section 24 of the Act, often used against media practitioners, stipulates that anybody who uses computer systems to send a message “he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, intimidation… shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than 7 million Naira or imprisonment of not more than 3 years”.
No date has been fixed yet for the hearing of the suit.