Civil Society, Media Collaborate to Create Nigerian Whistleblower Network

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Nigerian civil society organisations and media houses have come together to collaborate to create the Whistleblower Network Nigeria (WNN) to, among other things, advocate for the review of legislative bills and regulatory provisions threatening press and Internet freedom in Nigeria.They also plan to collaborate with other relevant stakeholders to lobby for the enactment of a whistleblower protection law in Nigeria.

The network will also create and manage a secure, collaborative whistleblower website to be called leaks.ng.

WNN also aims to increase access to information, collaborate on investigative reporting on corruption and human rights violation, and in building a secure trustworthy whistleblowing platform.

The Network was formed following a two-day joint media and civil society organisations meeting which took place in Lagos on April 11 and 12, 2017 and deliberated on issues and challenges of investigative journalism, policy and legislative threats to press freedom, freedom of expression online and creating a coalition.

Participants at the workshop expressed deep concern over extant laws which inhibit freedom of press, and the absence of coordinated stakeholder advocacy effort to lobby the National Assembly to revoke aspects of sedition, defamation and other related restrictive laws.

The coalition is a response to the corruption battle in Nigeria and comes at a good time since the whistleblower protection policy has been a topic of discussion in the Nigerian legal environment. WNN hopes to create a positive impact in the Nigerian media landscape.

To set the ground for a workable network, stakeholders made presentations on different issues that should help determine the nature of the coalition, its organigram and its modus operandi.

Dapo Olorunyomi, of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) gave the motivation for the creation of the network saying that in August 2016, it became clear to PTCIJ that if Nigerian journalism was going to make any headway, it would need to understand how journalists can interface with CSOs in a more purposeful collaboration.

He added that the Centre discovered that it was not enough that the press carries out its consequential job that gives substance to democracy in Nigeria, but that it is also important that there is a twin end to the job in the form of advocacy.

Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) gave a presentation in which he shared MRA’s experience of forming and managing the Freedom of Information Coalition (FOIC) pointing out the activities MRA carried out that ensured the success of the FOIC in its advocacy for the passage of the FOI Act.

Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) also gave insight into the formation and operations of the Nigerian Investigative Journalism Network (NIJN). The NIJN was established with the aim to mainstream investigative journalism, create a culture of intensive fact based and ethical reporting, provide access and facility building through professional materials, create a consciousness of investigative reporting in newsrooms, and encourage mentoring between different levels. She expatiated on its initial challenges and how WSCIJ overcame them.

Irving Huerta and Marcel Oomens also made presentations on “How to organize a joint whistleblowing initiative” drawing from the establishment, operations, strengths, weaknesses etc. of two such initiatives: Mexicoleaks and Publeaks.

Other participants also gave presentation with suggestions on how to optimally mange the proposed coalition.

A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of membership of the Network was carried out by participants.

Stakeholders who participated at the two-day meeting include the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Committee to Protect Journalists, Nigerian Union of Journalists, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Media Rights Agenda, Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism and the International Press Centre among others.

It has also created a googlegroup listserv for interested members of the public to join in discussions around protection for whistleblowers and freedom of expression, share information and experiences, and carryout advocacy among other things.

Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) convened the meeting on whistle blowing and Media/CSOs Coalition Building, with support from Free Press Unlimited (FPU), a Dutch non-governmental organization.