Court Adjourns Hearing to June 10 in MRA’s Lawsuit on Safety of Journalists

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, presided over by Justice Nnamdi O. Dimgba, has again adjourned hearing to June 10, 2024, in a suit filed by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), over the failure of the Nigerian government to take concrete actions to ensure the safety of journalists and to enforce Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

Ms. Obioma Okonkwo, MRA’s Legal Head

The Originating Summons, filed on July 27, 2021, by Ms Obioma Okonkwo on behalf of MRA, aims to affirm the legal validity of the Declaration of Principles within Nigeria’s legal system. It underscores the enforceability of the stipulated principles, emphasizing the imperative for tangible measures by the Nigerian government to safeguard journalists and uphold the principles delineated in the Declaration.

MRA called upon the Nigerian Government to uphold its responsibility to safeguard journalists and media professionals. This entails conducting thorough investigations into attacks against them, adhering to Principle 20, and displaying unwavering dedication to creating a safe and secure atmosphere for journalists and media workers.

Ms Okonkwo, in the suit, further asserted and highlighted the violations of the Declaration and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She emphasized that the government’s failure to act contradicts its legal duties, putting journalists at risk and obstructing the public’s right of access to information through diverse media outlets.

The lawsuit also seeks to get the court to issue specific directives, including making the government to take measures to prevent attacks, prosecute those responsible for assaults on journalists, provide effective remedies for victims, raise awareness about the importance of journalists’ safety, and enhance the capacity of media professionals and policymakers to create safer environments for journalists.

Originally slated for October 19, 2022, the court proceedings were delayed due to absence of the Attorney General of the Federation and the lack of legal representation on his behalf. There have been multiple adjournments for subsequent hearings, including adjournment to April 3, 2023 (later deferred due to the Easter vacation), and June 29, 2023 (deferred due to the Id el Kabir public holiday).

Despite being rescheduled for November 3, 2023, the court did not convene, leading to another adjournment to February 23, 2024. However, following the transfer of Justice Peter Odo Lifu, the presiding judge at the time, to Abuja, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba took over his position as the presiding judge, leading to yet another adjournment to June 10, 2024, for the hearing.