Editors’ Guild Condemns Police Misuse of Cybercrime Act to Harass Journalists

Mr. Eze Anaba, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has condemned the growing misuse of the Cybercrime Act by law enforcement and security agents, especially the Nigeria Police, to harass and intimidate journalists, warning that the trend is severely undermining press freedom in Nigeria.

The NGE made the condemnation in a statement signed by its President, Eze Anaba, and the General Secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, on June 4, 2024, at the end of its Standing Committee meeting held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The statement noted that: “The meeting deliberated on the state of the media with emphasis on the increasing spate of abduction and arrest of journalists in the country – under the guise of enforcing the Cyber Security Act, and warned of the implications of such illegal actions on press freedom.”

Pointing out that the Cybercrime Act was intended to combat cybercrime and not to target journalists fulfilling their democratic duties, the NGE said “We warn of the implications of such illegal actions on press freedom.”

The Guild added: “The professional body of media executives and editors calls for a proper understanding and intention of the Cyber Security Act, declaring that the law was enacted as a legal framework for combating cybercrimes and not for persecuting journalists.”

The body also condemned the “inhuman treatment” to which journalists are subjected by law enforcement and security agencies saying it was a negation of the democratic space.

According to the Guild, “Press freedom is the ability of the media to report news and express opinion without government interference, censorship, or retribution.”

“It is a fundamental human right essential for a healthy democracy, allowing citizens to access accurate information, hold leaders accountable, and participate in informed public discourse.”

While reaffirming its commitment to defending press freedom and supporting efforts to enhance national security and economic stability, the Guild however, noted that over the years, press freedom has been abused with journalists being harassed while carrying out their duties.

The NGE reeled out some cases of abduction and arrest of journalists citing the cases of the Nigerian Police Force invitation of a reporter with Premium Times, Emmanuel Agbo, over a yet-to-be-published report that he is working on; the abduction of the then editor of FirstNews newspaper, Segun Olatunji, from his home in the Iyana Odo, Abule Egba area of Lagos State by some gunmen attached to the Defence Intelligence Agency; the abduction of Daniel Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, by men of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of Police; and the detention for nine hours of the Executive Director of the ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, and its reporter, Nurudeen Akewushola, after they honoured the police’s invitation.

Taking cognizance of the harsh economic ecosystem under which the media currently operates in Nigeria, the Guild called on the federal government to ensure the sustainability of the media industry through robust economic policies and direct interventions that are capable of enhancing its capacity to transcend existing challenges.

It also called on government to take adequate steps to address the myriad of issues plaguing the nation.