Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has welcomed an October 6 resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the safety of journalists and called on the Federal Government to give full effect to its provisions, including by bringing all its laws, policies and practices into compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, as required by the resolution.
The resolution, A/HRC/45/L.42/Rev.1, introduced by Austria, was adopted by consensus by the 47-member UN Human Rights Council at its 45th Regular Session, which ends today in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, urged the Federal Government to fully implement the resolution and, in particular, undertake a comprehensive review of all its laws, policies and practices and, “where necessary, repeal or amend them so that they do not limit the ability of journalists and media workers to perform their work independently and without undue interference.”
He said: “This latest resolution by the Human Rights Council on the safety of journalists is a clear and comprehensive guidance to governments around the world, including the Nigerian Government, on the concrete actions they need to take to protect their journalists and media communities given the invaluable service they provide to their societies; to keep their citizens properly informed; and to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law as far as media freedom is concerned.”
Mr. Ojo highlighted other aspects of the resolution, which he said the Nigerian Government must urgently implement in order to meet its international human rights obligations as outlined in the document, including:
· Establishing prevention mechanisms, such as an early warning and rapid response mechanism, to give journalists and media workers, when threatened, immediate access to authorities competent and adequately resourced to provide effective protective measures;
· Developing and implementing strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against journalists, including by creating special investigative units or independent commissions; appointing a specialized prosecutor; and adopting specific protocols and methods of investigation and prosecution;
· Ensuring accountability through the conduct of impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers and bringing perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and ensuring that victims and their families have access to appropriate restitution, compensation and assistance;
· Supporting capacity-building, training and awareness-raising in the judiciary and among law enforcement officers and military and security personnel, as well as among media organizations, journalists and civil society, regarding States’ international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations and commitments relating to the safety of journalists;
· Taking into account the specific role, exposure and vulnerability of journalists and media workers observing, monitoring, recording and reporting protests and assemblies, and protecting their safety;
· Ensuring that defamation and libel laws are not misused, in particular through excessive criminal sanctions, to illegitimately or arbitrarily censor journalists and interfere with their mission of informing the public, and where necessary revising and repealing such laws, in compliance with Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights law; and
· Cooperating with journalists, the media and civil society organizations to assess the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on the provision of vital information to the public and the sustainability of media environments, and to consider devising appropriate mechanisms to provide financial support to the media, including local journalism and investigative reporting, and to ensure that support is given without compromising editorial independence.