ECOWAS court refuses to award two Nigerian journalists $1 million compensation for illegal detention by Nigerian security agents;  Orders FG to change press law

ECOWAS court refuses to award two Nigerian journalists $1 million compensation for illegal detention by Nigerian security agents; Orders FG to change press law


The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered the federal government to amend some sections of the Nigerian Press Council Act, 1992.

Isaac Olamikan and Edoghogho Ugberease, two Nigerian journalists — sued the federal government in 2021 for violating their rights to freedom of expression by imposing restrictive criteria for the practice of journalism.

They added that the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992 discriminated against online journalists and citizens and failed to recognize public interest media.

The journalists alleged that Nigerian security agents arrested them separately in different locations while they were investigating and gathering information for their journalistic work.

The pair said their arrests and detentions were illegal and violated their rights, and urged the court to order the government to pay them $1 million in compensation.

Delivering the verdict on the matter, Dupe Atoki, Reporting Judge, declared that sections 19(1)(a), 27 and 37 of the Act failed to recognize public interest media, including the rights of online journalists and citizens, thus 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.

“For example, Section 37 of the Press Council Act states that the minimum age to practice journalism is 18 years, while to be qualified as an editor requires a minimum age of 25 years,” the judgment said.

“Sections 19(a) and 27 of the Act impose educational qualifications and mandatory attendance and training courses before a person can be recognized and authorized to practice the profession of journalist.”

In her defense, Maimuna Shiru, director of civil litigation at the Federal Ministry of Justice and government lawyer in the case, said the rights to information and freedom of expression were not absolute.

Shiru countered journalists’ claims that they were illegally arrested and detained by government agents, saying the detentions had national security implications.

Although the ruling denied the journalists’ request for $1 million in compensation, the court recognized the impact of technology on the ever-evolving media space with the creation of online journalism.

Source: www.lindaikejisblog.com

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