MRA Calls for Enactment of Encryption Law to Ensure Journalists’ Safety

Idowu Adewale
MRA’s Communications Officer

 Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the Federal Governments to adopt policies and laws that support the rights of people to use strong encryption as it marked the Global Encryption Day on October 21, 2021, with a tweet chat to themed: Protecting Journalists’ Safety Online through Encryption. The tweet chat was focused on empowering journalists to protect themselves online using encryption tools.

MRA’s Communications Officer Idowu Adewale moderated the tweet chat, while the panelists comprised of the organisation’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo; Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe; Programme Manager, Legal, Ms Chioma Nwaodike and its legal officer Ms Obioma Okonkwo.

In his introduction to the chats, Mr. Ojo explained that the Global Encryption Day is organized by the Global Encryption Coalition (GEC) to put strong encryption firmly in the spotlight around the world to help all digital rights advocates to champion a stronger Internet for all.

Emphasizing the importance of Encryption Day, he said: “as we all know, there are increasing threats to media freedom and journalists’ safety online, including in Nigeria, as a result of which journalists have to navigate a more treacherous online environment, which makes the issue significant for us in this country.”

“In Nigeria, our current reality is that journalists are frequently attacked online and offline because of their professional duties, including their critical reporting of government and their investigative reports on government and public office holders, among others.”

He thereafter noted that “given the current realities, it is imperative for us all, as individuals or organizations, to get involved by making the switch to encrypted services or platforms, supporting and protecting strong encryption, or raising awareness about the importance of encryption.”

Highlighting the importance of encryption for the safety of journalists, Ms Okonkwo, pointed that, “Encryption can mean the difference between life and death for journalists who by the nature of their work frequently face attacks and persecution, so one can argue that besides safeguarding media freedom, it also ensures their right to life.”

Giving a linkage between encryption and human rights, she noted that, “given that online censorship and surveillance are growing threats to human rights, undermining encryption could threaten or undermine the ability of people to freely communicate and use the internet.”

She added that Encryption is, without doubt, an enabler of important human rights such as the right to freedom of opinion and expression, access to information and the right to life.

In addition, she said Encryption plays a significant role in enabling people to enjoy and exercise other rights such as the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and other human rights.

Ms Nwaodike, who noted that Nigeria has no specific law regulating encryption in the country, suggested that there is a need for the adoption of policies or laws that support the right of people to use strong encryption.

On his part, Mr. Longe tasked the government with the need to help people understand and use encryption to protect themselves, stressing that, “part of the responsibilities of governments to their citizens should be to enable people to protect themselves online.”

He urged journalists and media workers to embrace encryption to safeguard their activities online as many recent cases have revealed just how easy it is for the government to access electronic communications to constrain the free flow of information.

“The government is not the only predator that journalists and the media have to

contend with as there are many cases of journalists and news outlets having their

devices and online platforms hacked and surveilled by non-state actors as a result

of their reporting”, he said.

The tweet chat was made possible with support from the Internet Society.